Indian eves aim for fourth consecutive Asia Cup

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Dubai, Apr 30 (UNI) Aiming to make it four in a row, defending champion India will lead the field that also includes Sri Lanka and arch-rivals Pakistan in the Women's Asia Cup to be held in Kurunegala and Dambulla from May 2-11.

The three Asian powerhouses are joined by Bangladesh, which will make its debut at this level after qualifying for the tournament following its triumph in the ACC Women's Tournament in Malaysia last year in July.

The tournament will be played on a double-league format with the top two teams qualifying for the final. It will also serve as a launch for the three teams to start their preparations for the World Cup which will be held in 10 months' time.

India captain Mithali Raj said the Asia Cup will be the start of a tough season for her team in the run-up to the World Cup.

''It's definitely part of our preparations for the World Cup and is the start of the season for us.

''We have a tour to England and Australia before the World Cup. If we have to work on combinations for our best team, then the Asia Cup is one tournament where we can try this out,'' Mithali said.

Looking ahead to the Asia Cup, Mithali said,''It's good we have five girls who are making their debuts at this event. It's a good platform for them before they play against top sides like Australia, New Zealand and England.

''Every team tries to improve every time it plays. I think Sri Lanka is a very good fielding side as they are very agile in the field and Pakistan has a good set of spinners and some depth in its batting,'' said the 25-year-old batsman.

The skipper, who currently lies seventh in the all-time leading ODI run-scorers' list with 2,776 runs, is hoping to put up some good batting displays which will help her gain a few places in the list.

Opening pacer Jhulan Goswami, who won the Women's Player of the Year at the ICC Awards last year, is also looking forward to set a few records. She is set to become the second Indian after Neetu David and fourth overall in the history of the game to take 100 ODI wickets. The 24-year-old currently has 96 wickets from 79 ODIs.

India won the Asia Cup in 2004, 2005-06 and 2006-07. It has shown incredible consistency while winning all its 15 matches whereas Sri Lanka has won four of the 15 matches and Pakistan is winless from eight games.

However, things might be different this time as Pakistan is coming into the tournament with its confidence sky-high after finishing second behind South Africa in the ICC Women's World Cup Qualifier held in Stellenbosch, South Africa. That achievement earned it a place among the top teams at next year's World Cup .

India will take on take on Bangladesh in their opening encounter.

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