India’s in-form batsman Rohit Sharma insists there is no room for complacency as his side prepares to take on rivals Pakistan in the Asia Cup on Saturday. In what is the first time the tournament has been played over the Twenty20 format, India go into the match top of cricket’s T20 rankings after an impressive string of results at the start of 2016.
As well as whitewashing Australia 3-0 Down Under and beating Sri Lanka 2-1 last month, India began the 13th Asia Cup with a comprehensive victory over hosts Bangladesh on Wednesday. Sharma was the star of the 45-run victory, scoring a crucial 83 after India were put into bat. The score took Sharma’s average over his last nine T20 innings to above 45. Having come in for criticism in the past, the 28-year-old explained that the support of those around him has been key to his recent record. Still, he was reluctant to look back, or too forward, with such a big game upcoming.
“Any individual knows that he has the backing of the team, that's when he opens up and expresses himself better—gets the performance going,” he said, reports Indian news agency PTI. “For us also, we have been playing with the squad for a while which shows that we have a good bunch, which is ready to take up the challenge at any given point of time. That's a good sign and we are very proud of that.
“It's a good sign going to the World T20. But we have three more games to go and the focus now is on against the game versus Pakistan.”
Due to a breakdown in relations, Saturday’s showdown will be just the fourth meeting between India and Pakistan in nearly three years. Yet it will also be the precursor to another meeting, as soon as next month, in the World Twenty20, taking place in India.
As well as having designs on winning a third Asia Cup, Pakistan will be keen just to start finding some form. They have lost five of their last six Twenty20 internationals, the last two of them by emphatic scorelines to New Zealand. Their record historically against India in the 20-over format is also poor, with India having won five of the six matches.
The odds would appear further stacked in India’s favor due to the fact that they, unlike Pakistan, have already had a match on a pitch in Mirpur that has countered expectations. With a greener than anticipated top it has offered plenty to encourage seam bowlers, as India discovered to their cost early on against Bangladesh before Sharma and others successfully adapted to the conditions. Yet, despite being the final team to debut in the tournament, Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi believes the pitch will suit the strengths of his team.
“Pace bowlers are the main form of attack in these conditions,” he said ahead of Saturday’s match. “We have got four pacers and they are just cricketers who are considered to be wicket-taking. Our fast bowlers will try to utilize the opening six overs by removing their batsmen as that is considered to be their strength.
“I know their batting is strong but we also have a formidable bowling attack. I hope the result will be good for us.”
Match time: 8:30 a.m. EST
Live streaming info: In the United States, the match can be viewed via Yupp TV.