Abu Dhabi – Rival captains Sarfraz Ahmed and Rohit Sharma
played down the hype surrounding the much-awaited India-Pakistan clash in Dubai
on Wednesday, insisting that the Asia Cup is much more than a contest between
But despite their claims, millions of fans across the border
and elsewhere in the world will be watching the Group A clash, with a sold out
25 000-crowd expected at Dubai Stadium.
The game is the first between the sub-continent rivals since
Pakistan thumped India by 180 runs in the final of the Champions Trophy at The
Oval in June last year.
The two teams are facing each other for the first time in
the United Arab Emirates since 2006, the last of their regular matches which
were also held in Sharjah between 1984-2000.
Sarfraz, who led Pakistan in that memorable Champions Trophy
triumph, denied that his team will have a psychological advantage.
“We will not take that Champions Trophy win in our
minds,” said Sarfraz on Monday, a day after his team thumped qualifiers
Hong Kong in their first match of the tournament.
“That was a different atmosphere (in London) and
conditions. It was a year ago so that’s history so we will enter the ground
with a new strategy and passion.”
India will also meet Hong Kong in Dubai on Tuesday to tune
up for the big match.
India’s regular captain and world-class batsman Virat Kohli
has been rested for the competition to help his aching back after a gruelling
tour of England.
But Sarfraz refused to accept Kohli’s absence will make much
“No doubt he (Kohli) is their captain and a world-class
batsman but I think they (India) have a good team even without Kohli.
“They have good players who have done well for India.
So I don’t think it will make much difference to India. Their batting is very
strong so I can say that it will be a good match.”
Sarfraz has told his players just to enjoy the occasion.
“My message to the players is not to bother about the
result and do (their) best and when you do that you get a positive result in
all matches because there are five other teams as well,” he said.
Five-time Asia Cup champions Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and
Afghanistan are in Group B.
India have won the event – which started in 1984 – six
times, while Pakistan have been champions twice.
Two teams from each group will qualify for the Super Four
stage, with the top two to reach the September 28 final.
So barring any upsets against Hong Kong, India and Pakistan
will also face off again in the Super Four on September 23.
India skipper Sharma said his team will be looking beyond
“It’s always exciting to play Pakistan, but it’s not
about one team as well. There are other teams also eyeing the title,” said
Sharma, who has the rare record of scoring three one-day international double
All six teams have to endure extreme hot conditions in the
UAE, with the temperature scaling to over 40 degrees Celsius and expected to
rise further in the coming days.
Sharma said his side will get a chance to assess the
conditions in their match against Hong Kong.
“Once we finish the first game we will look at
Pakistan, what their strengths and weaknesses are. Looking at the pitch, I
think we have the perfect combination and the guys to do the job.
“A few players have come from England so it’s going to
be a challenge for them.
“For the rest of us, we have been here for the last
four days so I can probably say we are very much used to the conditions.
“It’s game time, so we have to focus on the game rather
than the conditions.”