The rivalry is still intense, but intermittent. Gone are the days when India and Pakistan used to lock horns regularly. And truth be told, a Kohli-Ajmal contest is nowhere close to a Kapil-Miandad exchange.
But now that the Asia Cup is here, fans will finally get to see the arch-rivals take on each other in the not-so-neutral environs of Dhaka. The biennial continental championship — featuring India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan — will be played from February 25 to March 8 in Fatullah and Mirpur. The 11-match affair will see each team play the other four once. The top two teams will contest the final.
Not surprisingly, everyone is looking forward to the March 2 contest between India and Pakistan. Since that thrilling World Cup semifinal in 2011, India and Pakistan have played just five ODIs and three Twenty20 matches against each other. Their most recent meeting was in the Champions Trophy last June when India won a rain-affected match in Birmingham by eight wickets. MS Dhoni & Co., went on to win the tournament.
"It's always a big challenge playing against India because there is so much interest in the game," said Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq. "India are a formidable side and we have to be at our best to win. We may not have played each other much recently, but I know it will be an exciting match."
Pakistan begin the tournament as the defending champions. They had won the 2012 edition in Dhaka. Pakistan take on Sri Lanka in the tournament opener in Fatullah, a suburban town south of Dhaka which will host the first five league matches before the action shifts to Mirpur.
India, the most successful team in the Asia Cup with five titles in 11 editions so far, will be without Dhoni, who has been ruled out with a side strain. Virat Kohli will lead India, while Dinesh Karthik will replace Dhoni as wicket-keeper.
Sri Lanka begin the tournament with the advantage of having been in Bangladesh for the past month, winning the Test, Twenty20 and ODI series against the hosts. India start their campaign against hosts Bangladesh on Wednesday, eight days after ending a dismal tour of New Zealand where they lost both the Test and ODI series.
The focus will be on the fast-improving Afghans, who were added as the fifth team by the Asian Cricket Council after they qualified for their maiden World Cup next year. The minnows have played just two ODIs against Test nations, losing both matches to Pakistan and Australia.
February 25: Pakistan vs Sri Lanka in Fatullah
February 26: Bangladesh vs India in Fatullah
February 27: Afghanistan v Pakistan in Fatullah
February 28: India v Sri Lanka in Fatullah
March 1: Bangladesh vs Afghanistan in Fatullah
March 2: India vs Pakistan in Mirpur
March 3: Afghanistan vs Sri Lanka in Mirpur
March 4: Bangladesh vs Pakistan in Mirpur
March 5: Afghanistan vs India in Mirpur
March 6: Bangladesh vs Sri Lanka in Mirpur
March 8: Final in Mirpur