5 Reasons to Love the 2014 Asia Cup, and 5 Reasons to Hate It
If all goes to plan, the 2014 Asia Cup in Bangladesh will be a perfect appetiser for next month's World T20.
Four evenly matched sides plus emerging Afghanistan should make for a highly competitive competition.
Throw in a cricketing clasico between India and Pakistan and there's much to look forward to in the continent's premier 50-over tournament.
Doom-mongers will point to India's wretched recent form and Bangladesh's continued failure to pull their weight at the highest level.
M.S. Dhoni, Tamim Iqbal and Mohammad Irfan head a list of notable absentees and slow, lifeless pitches don't augur well for entertaining cricket.
Whether your glass is half full or half empty, read on for five reasons to love the 2014 Asia Cup, and five reasons to hate it.
1. All The Teams are Playing
It may not sound like much but having all the available teams take part is a big thing as far as the Asia Cup is concerned.
Like the Olympics Games of the 1970s and 80s, the competition has often been beset by withdrawals, boycotts and political squabbling.
India pulled out in 1986, Pakistan followed suit in 1990/91 and the entire competition was scrapped in 1993.
Barring any last-minute diplomatic complications Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will be joining hosts Bangladesh later this month.
2. India vs. Pakistan
Even if they only were playing for the right to eat a bag of cheese and onion crisps, a game between India and Pakistan would be worth watching.
Like Real Madrid vs. Barcelona, cricket's clasico, with all its attendant political baggage, makes for compelling viewing no matter who makes up the respective XIs.
India have the edge in the Asia Cup, winning the competition four times to Pakistan's two. Pakistan are the defending champions though, winning in Bangladesh in 2012.
Amazingly, the two teams have never met in the final in the previous 11 Asia Cup competitions.
3. It's a Great Primer for the World T20
The format may be different, 50 overs as opposed to 20, but the Asia Cup should act as a nice little appetiser for next month's World T20.
Viewers will get a chance to eye who's in good touch and what the conditions will be like in Bangladesh.
With minnows the UAE and Hong Kong not invited, there shouldn't be too many mismatches either.
4. Can Afghanistan's Seniors Match Their Youngsters?
With a win over Australia and a place in the quarter-finals secured, Afghanistan's youngsters have shown plenty of potential in the Under-19 World Cup.
The seniors now get a chance to strut their stuff against top class opposition in a 50-over tournament for the first time.
The Afghans were soundly beaten by Pakistan and Australia in their only previous ODIs against Test opposition in 2012. It will be interesting to see just how much progress they've made.
5. A Glimpse into India's future?
Though M.S. Dhoni has shown no inkling of standing down, injury has opened the door for Virat Kohli to put down another captaincy marker.
Kohli certainly has experience, steering India to Under-19 World Cup glory in 2008 as well as leading the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL.
The 25-year-old has skippered India in eight ODIs in Dhoni's absence, winning seven of them.
It's one thing to beat a limited Zimbabwe side, quite another to keep a calm head in a crucial match against Pakistan with an international trophy potentially on the line.
How Kohli shapes up will be fascinating to watch.
Reasons to Hate the 2014 Asia Cup: 1. Bangladeshi Struggles Continue
For a competition to truly sparkle it is important for the host country to perform well.
After showing signs of life in a surprise 3-0 ODI series win over New Zealand in October and November, Bangladesh have reverted to type.
The home side will go into the competition off the back of three straight defeats to Sri Lanka.
Star batsman Tamim Iqbal will not be risked either after picking up a neck injury in the second Test between the nations, per ESPN Cricinfo.
For the sake of the tournament as a whole, the Bengalis need to show something in their Asia Cup opener against India on 26 February.
2. India's Wretched Form
Bangladesh aren't the only team with questions to answer heading into the 2014 Asia Cup. India looked anything but World Champions on their recent tour to New Zealand.
The tourists failed to register a single win against the Kiwis and were walloped 4-0 in the five-match ODI series.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka look the pick of an inconsistent bunch. The teams looked well matched in their ODI series in the United Arab Emirates in December, with Misbah-ul-Haq's men shading it three games to two.
3. No M.S. Dhoni
A tournament needs its big name players and one of the Asia Cup's brightest stars will be missing.
M.S. Dhoni's absence with a side strain will be huge blow for India, as well as tournament organisers.
The skipper was one of the few bright points during the torrid ODI series in New Zealand, averaging 68 and scoring a trio of half-centuries in his five innings.
He will leave a huge hole in the Indian middle order.
4. Where Are the Fast Bowlers?
As Mitchell Johnson's demolition of England in the recent Ashes series showed, there's no finer sight in cricket than a genuinely quick bowler terrorising a batting line-up.
There won't be much in the way of express pace on show in Bangladesh, especially as Pakistan's giant paceman Mohammad Irfan has been ruled out with injury.
On slow pitches, prepare for a steady diet of containing spin and pace off the ball with military medium-pacers. And maybe a bit of reverse swing if we're lucky.
5. Serious Business Is Happening Elsewhere
The 2014 Asia Cup may be of great interest to followers of the teams involved but it's likely to pass the rest of the cricketing world by.
Most neutral eyes will be on a likely decider in the South Africa vs. Australia Test series in Cape Town rather than Afghanistan vs. Sri Lanka or Bangladesh vs. Pakistan.
England start the post-Kevin Pietersen era this week with a brief tour to the Caribbean, stealing more newspaper column inches from the Asia Cup.
It may be big in Bangalore and massive in Mirpur, but the 2014 Asia Cup is likely to make little impact in Cape Town, Melbourne or Manchester.
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