'Favourites' India take on Hong Kong with only pride at stake

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Karachi, Jun 24 (UNI) Keen to avenge the defeat suffered at the hands of Pakistan in the tri-series final, India would like to start their Asia Cup campaign on a perfect note with a thumping victory when they take on minnows Hong Kong at the National Stadium here tomorrow.

The task should not be even close to difficult for Mahendra Singh Dhoni's boys and not many would put their money on the inexperienced Hong Kong side.

But still, India would not look to get complacent and use the opportunity to get ideal practice for their group match against Pakistan on Thursday.

All-rounder Irfan Pathan, who has a side strain, will get the much needed rest but that shouldn't be a worrying factor for India as they already have the attck to dismantle Hong Kong.

After the loss to Pakistan in the tri-national final in Bangladesh earlier this month, Dhoni had rued to the fact that he did not come up the order ahead of Suresh Raina and the Indian captain would prefer not to repeat his mistake again in the Asia Cup.

India coach Gary Kirsten admitted that no team can be taken lightly and said his wards will not be complacent against any opposition in the tournament.

''We will take every match and oppsition very seriously in the tournament and will di every bit that we need to do as this is Asia Cup. I am also looking for some huge contributions from my players,'' Kirsten said.

In the last few years, India has had a great record in Pakistan but captain Dhoni is not too keen to rest his laurels on past records and said his team would prefer to get on board with a convincing win.

''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.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong captain Tabarak Dar believes his team is good enough to make a mark in the international arena and Asia Cup would provide them the opportunity.

''Even though our task is very tough, we are pretty optimistic of putting up a good show here because the stage is set for our lads to prove everyone where we stand in international cricket,'' Dar said.

Hong Kong lost both their matches in the last Asia Cup and are pinning their bowling hopes on Nadeem Ahmed, who was a youngster when we played in Sri Lanka in 2004.

For India nothing more than prestige at stake, it would be interesting to see how they take up the challenge especially, considering that all the three Asian giants - India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka - have a knack of going down to weak teams every now and then.

Teams India (from) Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (cap, w/k), Yousuf Pathan, Suresh Raina, Piyush Chawla, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Manpreet Gony, RP Singh.

Hong Kong (from) Tabarak Dar (capt), Courtney Kruger, Afzaal Haider, Hussain Butt, Najeeb Amar, Skhawat Ali, Zain Abbas, Nadeem Ahmed, Irfan Ahmed, James Atkinson (wk), Munir Dar.

UNI XC RAR RKM HT1722

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