Dubai: India Pakistan rivalry set resume once again on Wednesday as the two neighbouring countries lock horns in Dubai during their Asia Cup Group ‘A’ match. Both the nations are facing each other for the first time after playing their last match in the Champions Trophy at The Oval in June last year where Pakistan thrashed India by 180 runs in the final to win the title. The two teams also playing against each other for the first time in the UAE since 2006. On the eve of the marquee clash, Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed on Tuesday acknowledged the pressure of the high-octane match but maintained that as players the approach to every game remained the same.
“There’s always pressure in India-Pakistan games. We’ve told our players, not just this game, consider every match as an India-Pakistan game if you want to win the event. There’s pressure, but we’re trying to not let it affect us, and perform well,” Sarfraz said in the pre-match presser.
“As players, we take India-Pakistan match very normally, but when the match comes up, the sort of hype that’s created- TV channels discuss it, there are small programmes on social media so the hype has an impact.
“But the players are told that whenever there’s an India-Pakistan match, you will try and play like you play any other game,” he added.
Sarfraz also dismissed the cliches surrounding the battle between Indian batting and Pakistan’s bowling, saying he hoped it to be a good contest. “A lot of people say this game is between Pakistan’s bowling and India’s batting. But I don’t believe that. If you see the past season, our batting is doing well, and bowling is also doing well. I feel it’ll be a good contest and I am hoping we put on a good show,” he said.
On being asked if he expected another contest on the lines of last year’s Champions Trophy final in England, which his side won handsomely, the Pakistan stumper preferred to start afresh. “It was a time in the past and it is gone now. It was obviously a memorable match for us and that will remain in our minds forever,” he said.
“The players who were part of that game will remember it throughout their careers. But it is a new event now, new atmosphere, the conditions are completely different. So we’ll try to ensure that the momentum that we’ve got from the first game, we’ll take it forward,” he added.
Two teams from each group will qualify for the Super Four stage, with the top two to reach the final which is to be played on September 28.
Sarfraz also said that the absence of Virat Kohli from the Indian side could make a huge difference. The 31-year-old, however, added that India is a good team and they must have done their homework ahead of the tournament. “Apart from Kohli, the Indian team has other good players too,” Sarfraz said.
“(But), Kohli is a big player, and [his absence] could make a difference for India. The Indian team must have done their homework. Good teams always take the field prepared,” the Express Tribune quoted Ahmed, as saying.
Kohli has been rested for the ongoing Asia Cup and in his absence, Indian opening batsman Rohit Sharma is leading the side.
India: Rohit Sharma (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Ambati Rayudu, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Shardul Thakur, Dinesh Karthik, Khaleel Ahmed.
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (capt/wk), Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul Haq, Babar Azam, Shan Masood, Shoaib Malik, Haris Sohail, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Junaid Khan, Usman Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Asif Ali, Mohammad Amir.
Match starts at 5pm (IST)