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Irfan to miss Asia Cup opener

June 24, 2008 16:57 IST

India launch their campaign in the Asia Cup cricket tournament against minnows Hong Kong in Karachi on Wednesday, hoping to get into top form ahead of their crucial match against arch-rivals Pakistan on Thursday.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men should not face much resistance from Hong Kong, but the Indians are in no mood to take their opponents lightly in what is likely to be a one-sided floodlit contest at the National Stadium.

The Indians will go into the game without the services of paceman Irfan Pathan, who will be rested because of a side strain. But they have enough bowling resources at their disposal to counter Hong Kong.

India's coach Gary Kirsten warned his players against getting complacent.

"I am looking for some big contributions from my players in the match. We will take every opposition seriously as this is the Asia Cup and we will play proper cricket and will do the things we need to do," Kirsten said.

The Indians, seeking to make amends after their defeat to Pakistan in the tri-series final in Bangladesh, have a track record in Pakistan in recent times. But captain Dhoni is not banking on statistics and willing to start from a scratch.

"We will start our script from scratch in this tournament. We are not going to take any team lightly," Dhoni said.

"I am happy with the team combination. I feel it is a good opportunity for the aspiring youngsters in such a big tournament. It is also a challenge for seasoned players to perform in it," he said.

In the batting department, India has a strong line-up, with the two left-handers, Yuvraj Singh and Gautam Gambhir, in fine nick, having played some brilliant innings during the tri-series in Bangladesh.

Dhoni, however, indicated that he would come up in the batting order to keep the momentum during the middle overs of the innings.

"I will definitely try to bat up the order depending on what kind of start we get. We float our batsmen depending on the number of overs left in the game," he said.

Hong Kong coach Aftab Habib, however, insisted his team, which has a combination of seniors and juniors, will not go down without a fight.

"We have this advantage that most of the guys are from Pakistan and have cricket in their blood. We know the Indians are a very strong outfit but we will go out there and just do our best," Habib, a former England cricketer, said.

"India has some world class batsmen but we have some good senior players and spinners in the side and if the pitch does do a little bit it would be interesting," he added.

Batsmen like Ashish Gadhia and James Atkinson can well change the calculation of the Indians if taken lightly.

In the absence of Pathan, Ishant Sharma will have to take the bulk of the pace bowling responsibility, along with R P Singh. Spinner Piyush Chawla will also have an important role considering the fact that pitches in the sub-continent generally assist the slow bowlers.

Teams (from):

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Capt), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Robin Uthappa, Yusuf Pathan, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Piyush Chawla, Manpreet Gony, Ishant Sharma, R P Singh, Pragyan Ojha, Praveen Kumar.

Hong Kong: Tabarak Dar (capt), Afzaal Haider, Ashish Gadhia, James Atkinson, Toby Brown, Hussain Butt, Irfan Ahmed, Courtney Kruger, Roy Lamsam, Munir Dar, Nadeem Ahmed, Najeeb Amar, Skhawat Ali, Waqas Barkat (wk), Zain Abbas.

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