India under the leadership of Rohit Sharma will attempt to win the Asia Cup title for a record eighth time when the tournament begins with the high-voltage India vs Pakistan contest on August 28.
Team India will lock horns against their arch-rivals for the first time since the 10-wicket drubbing in Dubai last year but according to Sharma things will be different this time.
“Asia Cup is happening after a long time, but we played Pakistan last year in Dubai, where obviously the result did not go our way. But the Asia Cup is different now. The team is playing differently and has prepared differently, so a lot of things have changed from then. But for us, we need to assess the conditions, keep in mind the fact that we will be playing in 40-plus degrees. We need to assess all those factors and prepare accordingly,” he said while addressing the media on Wednesday.
“My thought has always been that we will not focus on the opponent, but we will continue to play our game. We played against West Indies, England and in both cases, we did not think about who our opposition was, but we focused on things that we had to do as a team and what we had to achieve. Similarly, in the Asia Cup, our focus will be on what to achieve as a team and not think about who we are facing – be it Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka,” he said.
“As a team, we are working on a few things ahead of the Asia Cup. We have to keep the process going,” he added.
With the T20 World Cup, just a couple of months away, the Indian captain said that the template for the side is more or less set.
“There is still about two-and-a-half months left for the T20 World Cup. Before that, we have the Asia Cup and two home series against Australia and South Africa. So, more or less 80-90 percent of your team is set, of course there could be three-four changes if at all depending on the conditions. As of now, we have been playing in India and will play in UAE, so the conditions in Australia will be different. We need to check what suits our team in Australia,” said Sharma
However, the leader of the Indian pace battery Jasprit Bumrah will be out of action due to a back injury and Sharma stressed the importance of “creating a bench strength,” considering the amount of cricket the team plays, weighing in the injury factor.
“(Jasprit) Bumrah, (Mohd) Shami and all these guys will not be with the Indian team forever, so you have to try and prepare the other guys. Myself and Rahul bhai spoke about how we are going to create our bench strength because that’s going to be very crucial considering the amount of cricket we play, considering the injury factors and everything. We never want to be a team that relies on one or two individuals, we want to be a team where everyone can contribute and help the team win on their own. We want to be that kind of a team and that’s why we want to give the youngsters as many opportunities as possible and of course, you have got senior players around them. They can be of good help,” he said.
At a time when questions have been raised on the future of one-day international cricket, the Indian captain has backed the format and said, “Mera naam hi One-day cricket se bana hai. Sab bekar ki baatein hai. People were earlier talking about Test cricket, people are not getting things to talk. For me, cricket is important – whatever be the format. I would never say that ODI is getting finished or T20 is getting finished or Tests are nearing an end. I wish there is another format as well, because for me, playing the game is most important. Since childhood, we dreamt of playing the game for India and in my mind. Whenever we play ODIs, stadiums are full, the excitement remains high. It’s an individual choice as to which format to play or not, but for me, all three formats are important.”
Rohit Sharma also spoke on various new leagues and how will this affect other countries and said, “I don’t know what people are thinking about playing leagues over international cricket. There will be ten more leagues, but in the coming years, we will get to know what the players prefer. But as of now, the situation of Indian cricket remains the same – we play the IPL, the international cricket. The guys are getting exposure and our aim is to create bench strength, so that’s why in Zimbabwe, there are a lot of players who are touring for the first time – be it Shahbaz Ahmed, Rahul Tripathi – and it is a good exposure. They are really talented, they will grab the opportunity. It’s about getting the confidence at this stage, which I am sure they will learn. Playing for the country matters the most.”