Asia’s big four launch World Cup preparations

DAMBULLA, June 14, 2010 (AFP) – Asia’s Test-playing nations begin their preparations for next year’s World Cup when they contest the region’s top one-day prize from Tuesday. Away from the global spotlight on the football World Cup in South Africa, the four-nation Asia Cup will be played in Sri Lanka over the next 10 days.

India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, who co-host the cricket World Cup in February-April, will be joined by Pakistan in a round-robin preliminary league with the top two teams contesting the final on June 24.

“This is a good chance to test our strengths and weaknesses and also see how the others are faring on the way to the World Cup,” Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said.

India go into the tournament in the central town of Dambulla hoping to make amends for their failure to reach the semi-finals of the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean.

A second-string side then lost twice to hosts Zimbabwe in a recent one-day tri-series also featuring Sri Lanka, exposing a weak bench that does not augur well for the World Cup.

India, who face Bangladesh in their first match on Wednesday, are without veteran Sachin Tendulkar, the world’s most