| Mahendra Singh Dhoni |
Karachi: President Pervez Musharraf wouldve preferred to watch a Younis Khan in Sundays Asia Cup final, but its quite possible that he actually wont mind watching Mahendra Singh Dhoni instead.
After all, the last time Musharraf graced an India match (Lahore ODI in February 2006), hed been absolutely bowled over by Dhoni. Specifically, his hair style.
Dhoni didnt hold any position then (today hes the ODI and Twenty20 captain), but an unbeaten 72 off 46 balls, which got him the MoM award, gave the President an opportunity to break with protocol and to do so for Dhonis benefit.
Musharraf, in fact, took everybody by surprise when he told Dhoni: I saw a placard which said Dhoni have a hair cut. If you want to take my opinion, you look good... Dont have a hair cut...
Dhoni laughed when The Telegraph reminded him about the Presidents comments, on Saturday evening. I dont think hell remember the hair cut stuff...
But what if Musharraf did and asked why his advice got disregarded, that too rather quickly? If he does, then Ill have to think of an answer... Jab woh puchenge, tab hum dekhenge... Abhi main aap ko kaise bataun?
Moving away from the hair cut business, both Team India and Sri Lanka will be looking to cut each other to size at the National Stadium.
Sundays is a repeat of the last Asia Cup final, almost four years ago. Playing at home, the Lankans then didnt have to stretch. It could be an entirely different story here.
The Indians start favourites... I see the Asia Cup going to India, reason being you have much the better team, pointed out former Pakistan captain Ramiz Raja, speaking exclusively.
Dhoni and Co. defeated Lanka in the Super Four stage, on Thursday, but the Lankans had rested the seasoned Chaminda Vaas and the exciting Ajantha Mendis.
Both will be back in the Lankan line-up.
The Indians could retain the XI which beat the Lankans the other day. If that does happen, then it will be a continuation of the strategy revolving around five specialist bowlers.
Its sensible, given that the wickets at the National Stadium have been labelled the flattest in the world.
However, theres also talk that Irfan Pathan (who, believe it or not, conceded 80 in the last match) could be dropped, with elder brother Yusuf making a comeback.
Also an allrounder, Yusuf bowls off-spin and the Lankans have quite a few left-handers.
Senior pro Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir skipped the optional nets on Saturday afternoon, but coach Gary Kirsten insisted they were fine (theyve been batting very well and took a break).
The Indians, by the way, have made three finals — sequence beginning with the tri-series in Australia — in the past few months.
The June tri-series in Bangladesh didnt work out well, but the one in Australia saw history being made.
Its good to have made three finals in a row, coming through the league stages, remarked Dhoni. His tone didnt give away much.
Quietly confident, Kirsten hoped that the final wouldnt be a good (closely-fought) match and that victory would be comfortable.
The Sri Lankan captain, Mahela Jayawardene, maintained that the Super Four loss wouldve no bearing.
Its to be seen whats done by the captain who wins the toss: Even 300-plus totals havent been defended. Enough to confuse even the most thinking of captains.
More than the toss, though, not losing wickets early will probably be critical. Consolidating shouldnt be much of a worry once the start has been solid and well-paced.
INDIA (likely): Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Yusuf Pathan/Irfan Pathan, Pragyan Ojha, Praveen Kumar, Rudra Pratap Singh, Ishant Sharma.
SRI LANKA (likely): Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Chamara Kapugedera, Chamara Silva, Thilan Thushara, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Chaminda Vaas, Nuwan Kulasekara, Ajantha Mendis, Muttiah Muralidharan.
Umpires: Simon Taufel, Tony Hill; TV: Zameer Haidar.
Match Referee: Alan Hurst.
Match starts: 3.30 pm (IST).