The inaugural edition of the Afro-Asian Cup, to be played in South Africa this month, lost more sheen following the withdrawal of Rahul Dravid who withdrew from the three-match series citing personal reasons. SK Nair, the Indian board secretary, said that Dravid had informed them of his unavailability, and that the board had asked the Asian Cricket Council to make a suitable replacement in the Asian team.
Four players had already been ruled out through injury. The Africa team lost the services of Albie Morkel and Andy Blignaut, while Asia's bowling would be severely hampered without Chaminda Vaas and Irfan Pathan. Sanath Jayasuriya will also miss the tournament owing to his shoulder injury, which he sustained in the first game of the Indian Oil Cup, and will be replaced by Mahela Jayawardene. However, Jayawardene may not be able to make it for the series opener owing to visa constraints.
Justin Kemp was drafted into the Africa side while Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan replaced Vaas and Pathan, who were both injured in the recent Indian Oil Cup final. Morkel and Blignaut had not yet recovered from their injuries.
Cassim Suliman, the Africa Cricket Association's acting ceo, said, "Naturally, losing players of the calibre of Irfan, Chaminda, Albie and Andy is a big blow, but we are fortunate to have enormous depth in both squads. We are confident still, that we shall be able to stage a memorable tournament."
The tournament is expected to be a big draw, with the coming together of stars from four sub-continental countries, though the withdrawals - all due to injury - have been big names, too: Sachin Tendulkar, to name one.
Africa Graeme Smith (capt), Shaun Pollock, Boeta Dippenaar, AB de Villiers, Jacques Kallis, Ashwell Prince, Mark Boucher (wk), Monde Zondeki, Jacques Rudolph, Nicky Boje, Justin Ontong, Steve Tikolo, Collins Obuya, Thomas Odoyo, Heath Streak, Tatenda Taibu, Dale Steyn, Justin Kemp.
Asia Inzamam-ul-Haq (capt), Virender Sehwag, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Sanath Jayasuriya, Yousuf Youhana, Shahid Afridi, Abdul Razzak, Muttiah Muralitharan, Mohammad Ashraful, Mashrafe Mortaza, Anil Kumble, Shoaib Akhtar.