- Skipper Rohit Sharma says India have learnt from their previous loss to Pakistan.
- “It will be a challenge to play against Pakistan without a doubt,” says captain.
- Sharma says “it’s a fresh tournament and a new start”.
DUBAI: Skipper Rohit Sharma on Saturday said India have learnt from their previous loss to Pakistan but playing their arch-rivals in the hotly-anticipated Asia Cup match will be a challenge.
The two teams begin their campaign in the Twenty20 tournament on Sunday in Dubai, a venue where India suffered a 10-wicket thrashing to Babar Azam’s Pakistan in last year’s T20 World Cup.
“The mood in the camp is buzzing. It’s a fresh tournament, a new start. Not to think about what has happened in the past and that’s how the team moves forward,” Rohit told reporters.
“It will be a challenge to play against Pakistan without a doubt, but for us what is important is what we are thinking as a group and what we want to achieve from this tournament.”
The two teams only play each other in multi-nation tournaments due to political tension and the result of their previous meeting has been a talking point in the lead-up to the six-nation Asia Cup.
It was Pakistan’s first win over India in a World Cup, but Rohit said they have now put the loss behind them.
“We do talk about our losses, that’s how we improve as a team. That loss did hurt us at that point, but I think it’s been a while since that game has been played,” said Rohit.
“We learn from our mistakes. For now it’s a fresh start for us and obviously the team is coming out of playing a lot of T20 cricket. We will not think too much about what happened in October, that was a long time back.”
Dubai has witnessed lot of warmth between the players of both the teams and on Friday Rohit went out of his way to meet a group of cheering Pakistan fans at the practice venue.
Azam and Indian superstar Virat Kohli also exchanged pleasantries, a sight not very common between players of the two nations, which have fought three wars, including two over the disputed region of Kashmir.
“This can be unusual to you, but not for us. We have been seeing this for so many years and whenever we go to the ground cricket fans come to watch the game and meet players,” said Rohit.
“Lot of us have experienced this. This is normal.
“Regarding the rivalry, both are good teams and will produce a good quality match whenever they face each other and it will be a talking point.
“But I am sure it’s just a match for both teams which they will try to win. You can hype it from outside, but here we will work and focus on our game.”
Azam also played down the rivalry between the two teams after a journalist compared the heat of Dubai to the upcoming clash between the South Asian giants.
“No heat at all,” Azam said with a smile. “It’s normal and we have to adjust to everything as a professional.”
Azam remains the star performer with the bat for Pakistan and remains key to the team’s success in the absence of pace spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi, who was forced out due to a knee injury.
“Every match is important for me and it is my responsibility as captain that I give my hundred per cent,” Azam said in his role as a batsman and a captain.
“Whatever is in my hand I do the best. And enjoy my cricket.”
Pace bowler Hasan Ali will join the team on Sunday in place of Mohammad Wasim who became the second on the injury list after Shaheen.
“Injuries are part of the team. We have a good bench strength and we have a young battery of fast bowlers who have performed well and I have belief on them,” said Azam.