Kuala Lumpur: India's Gaganjeet Bhullar and Anirban Lahiri, who between them have eight Asian Tour titles, form a central part of the Asian Team, which seeks to upset the more fancied European side in the inaugural EurAsia Cup. Asia and Europe clash in a three-day match-play event, which has all the makings of becoming the Ryder Cup of the East, from Thursday.
Team Asia team includes three formidable Thais in Thongchai (captain), Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Prayad Marksaeng, besides the Indian duo Bhullar and Lahiri, Malaysian Nicholas Fung, Korean Kim Hyung-sung, Bangladeshi star, Siddikur and the Japanese duo Koumei Oda and Hideto Tanihara.
A paratrooper-turned pro golfer, Thongchai Jaidee and the 50-year-old Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez, were all set to take stage ahead of the event.
The European line-up includes the 2010 US Open winner, Graeme McDowell, besides the charismatic Jimenez, a bunch of proven stars like Thomas Bjorn of Denmark, Welshman Jamie Donaldson, Frenchman Victor Dubuisson, Spaniards Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Pablo Larrazabal, two-time Dubai Classic winner.
Lahiri and Bhullar have played a lot of team competitions together, right from Eisenhower Cup, Nomura Cup and the Asian Games and only last year they played the World Cup together. But this week, they will go side by side in match-play, a la Ryder Cup at the short but challenging Glenmarie Golf and Country club this week.
Three-time winner at the tight Delhi Golf Course, Lahiri, said: "We (Bhullar and he) have played team golf together. But in juniors and amateurs, you play your own ball and the best 2 or 3 scores count. This is the first time I will be playing in this format (fourball and foursomes) though Gagan has played before. We are looking to some upsets when the event begins this week."
"This is a different format, so it requires some adjustments. I must say there is a sense of achievement for all of us who have made the team for Asia. Last few days we have been playing with each other. We are trying to figure out what could be best combinations," he said.
On team preparations, Lahiri added, "We are all getting to know each other. We have played golf with each other last two days and it is coming well."
Team captain Thongchai summed up as he said, "They (all the players in the team) have a great record of winning titles at many events. But this tournament is different with fourballs and foursomes and it depends on your partner. They (Anirban and Bhullar) have decided they are comfortable with each other, so let's see."
As it is well known that combinations can change when things don't work out, so Thongchai was still keeping his options open, but is veering towards fielding the Indians together, and so will be the case with the two Japanese and he himself may play with Kiradech.
"It is a question of being comfortable with each other and both Anirban and Bhullar have played a lot with each other in various competitions and I am happy with it," he said.
The European captain Miguel Angel Jimenez, said, "The game is growing in this part of the world and I am hoping that EurAsia Cup will become something like the Ryder Cup."
"We have a lot of good and experienced players and I am looking forward to a very good battle."
Team Asia: Thongchai Jaidee (Captain, Thailand), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Thailand), Gaganjeet Bhullar (India), Nicholas Fung (Malaysia), Kim Hyung-sung (Korea,) Anirban Lahiri (India), Prayad Marksaeng (Thailand), Koumei Oda (Japan), Siddikur Rahman (Bangladesh), Hideto Tanihara (Japan).
Team Europe: Miguel-Angel Jimenez (Captain, Spain), Thomas Bjorn (Denmark), Jamie Donaldson (Wales), Victor Dubuisson (France), Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (Spain), Stephen Gallacher (Scotland), Pablo Larrazabal (Spain), Joost Luiten (Netherlands), Graeme McDowell (N Ireland), Thorbjorn Olesen (Denmark).