DHAKA: India and Pakistan will renew cricket’s most bitter rivalry this week after a two-year gap when they face off in the Asia Cup, a contest for regional supremacy which is also a final rehearsal for the World T20.
The biennial 12-day tournament, which is being held in Bangladesh for the second time in a row, begins on Wednesday night when the hosts take on India at Dhaka’s Sher-e-Bangla stadium — the venue for all the matches.
Local supporters will be looking to see if Bangladesh’s sharp improvement in 50-over cricket will translate into an upturn in their performances in the shortest form of the game, with the World T20 in India only weeks away.
But most eyes will be on Saturday’s glamour tie when India and Pakistan take to the field together for the first time since the last World T20 in 2014.
India-Pakistan showdowns usually draw hundreds of millions of television viewers, making it the biggest box office attraction in the sport.
But diplomatic tensions have meant that the two teams have not played any bilateral series for more than three years and their rivalry is therefore restricted to multi-national tournaments.
Pakistan, furious that India has rebuffed repeated pleas to play a bilateral series at a neutral venue, will be desperate to cause an upset against their giant neighbour.
With the reigning champions Sri Lanka going through a rebuilding phase, most pundits expect India to cement their position at the top of the T20 world rankings ahead of their staging of the format’s premier tournament.