For Indian skipper Rohit Sharma, the prospect of facing the likes of Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf on Saturday is as simple as it gets. Despite the trio having managed to put the Indian top order under pressure in recent times from the word go. Be it in Dubai where Afridi ran through Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul’s defence or in Melbourne where Rauf and Naseem removed the two and Suryakumar Yadav between them to leave India vulnerable in the powerplay.
When asked on the eve of their next clash in Kandy how the 36-year-old and his team have prepared to take guard against the ominous-looking Pakistan pace attack, Rohit dug out one of his typical punchlines. “We don’t have Shaheen, Naseem or Rauf to face in the nets. We prepare with the ones we have,” he said before changing his tone to appreciate the talent on offering from the opposition. “They’re quality bowlers. All three of them and have been performing together for quite some time now. Pakistan have always had quality bowlers.”
Then he put on the skipper game face before flexing, “we’ve seen their strengths and weaknesses. Ab itne saal se khel rhe hai, (we’ve been playing for so many years) so we have to use that experience and play. It is as simple as that.”
Pakistan walk into their second and last group stage fixture on Saturday with a thumping 238-run win against Nepal on Wednesday in Multan – a result that boasted of not just it’s bowling depth but also the batting firepower on offer with captain Babar Azam and Iftikhar Ahmed both scoring centuries.
“They’re a very good team. Over the last few years, they’ve done really well,” Rohit added in the press conference. “Whether it’s T20 or ODIs, no team becomes number one just like that. There’s hard work behind that and I’m sure this Pakistan team has done that. They look like a unit and have been playing good cricket. So it will be a challenge for us to play and perform against this side.”
On the options available
With a strong 17-man squad to his disposal at the Asia Cup, Rohit gladly suggested that he was more comfortable having more options at his disposable than none.
With five pacers and Hardik Pandya available, India also have three spinners to choose from as far as the bowling department is concerned. In batting, the return of both Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli – who opted out from the better part of the West Indies series – is also complemented by the likes of Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul marking their comeback after recovering from a back and thigh injury respectively. Even though Rahul has been declared unavailable to participate in the opening two fixtures at the Asia Cup.
“All sorts of combinations are available,” Rohit said before deducing the conditions that were at Pallekele during the low-scoring Sri Lanka-Bangladesh match on Thursday. “We saw in yesterday’s game, there was a bit of swing, bit of spin, we saw everything. That is always challenging. It is always going to challenge batters. Luckily we’ve got an experienced lineup and I’ll let that come in play accordingly.”
“Yes, I’ve said we want to try and take the game on but it’s important to read the situation and conditions as well. It’s not a T20 format, it’s a 50-over format. You have to apply a little more than T20 cricket and apply for a little longer,” Rohit added.
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