14 June 201022:51

Asian nations prepare for World Cup

All four teams will play six preliminary, round-robin games ahead of the June 24 final

Asian nations prepare for World Cup - Cricket News

2011 Cricket World Cup trophy.

This month's Asia Cup will provide the region's cricket nations with an ideal preparation ahead of the World Cup to be played on the subcontinent in just eight months' time.

Host Sri Lanka joins India, Pakistan and Bangladesh at the central town of Dambulla for the region's top limited-overs tournament starting Tuesday.

India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will co-host the cricket World Cup from February 2011. Pakistan was originally to have also been a co-host, but was dropped due to security concerns.

"For us, any tournament we play in is important," Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara told reporters Monday ahead of his team's opening match against Pakistan.

"This is important for building confidence and a stepping stone for the World Cup as well."

All four teams will play six preliminary, round-robin games ahead of the June 24 final.

India is recovering from its early exit from the Twenty20 world championship in the West Indies and its team comprising mostly of second-string players failed to reach the final of a recent tri-nation series featuring Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.

"We are always under pressure," Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said referring to high expectations from home fans. But he added that with the return of senior players, India's fortunes could be turned around.

"It's good to have the senior players back. They've got a decent time off cricket and at the same time they've got time to work on their fitness."

Sri Lanka, a winner of four Asia Cups including the previous two editions in 2004 and 2008, has dropped veteran batsman Sanath Jayasuriya and spin bowler Ajantha Mendis, whose efforts were instrumental in winning in 2008, due to poor form.

Sangakkara said their absence provided other players with a chance to prove themselves.

Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath and allrounder Farveez Maharoof have been recalled after long layoffs.

India batting great Sachin Tendulkar has opted out of the tournament to stay with his family, while batsmen Yuvraj Singh and Yousuf Pathan have been dropped.

Saurabh Tiwary, a 20-year-old uncapped batsman, has been called into the side on the back of an impressive performance in the Indian Premier League. India has four Asia Cup titles, but has not won the tournament for 15 years.

Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi's biggest challenge will be team unity after infighting in recent months resulted in suspensions for some senior players, including former captains Mohammad Yousuf, Younis Khan and Shoaib Malik.

The suspensions on Younis and Malik have been lifted while Yousuf is still under an indefinite ban.

Malik has been included in the side for the Asia Cup while pace bowler Shoaib Akhtar also returns after a year's layoff.