COLOMBO (Reuters) – India captain Rohit Sharma played down hype around Saturday’s Asia Cup blockbuster against Pakistan, saying their focus is on using the tournament to fine-tune their preparations for the home World Cup later this year.
The next round of cricket’s most emotionally charged rivalry will take place in Pallekele between the arch-rivals, who play each other only in multi-team events thanks to their soured political relations.
They could face each other up to three times in two weeks during the course of the tournament, including in the Sept. 17 final, and Rohit appeared determined not to get carried away by emotion.
“Rivalry is there for people to talk about. For us, we don’t want to look into all those things,” the opener deadpanned in the pre-match press conference on Friday.
“What we, as Team India, want to focus on is we have an opposition to play tomorrow, how we can perform (well)… rather than looking at all sorts of other things, which eventually is not going to help you.
“What is going to help us is – keep doing the right things on the pitch and make the right decisions that take us forward as a team.”
The six-team tournament assumes more importance for India as they chase their first global title in more than a decade at the home World Cup in October-November.
“We’re here to tick a lot of boxes,” said Rohit.
“When we finish the tournament, hopefully we can achieve that and go into the next one and half months of the World Cup.”
The match could prove a battle between India’s formidable batting and Pakistan’s fiery pace attack led by Shaheen Afridi.
“They are an excellent side, they have performed really well in the last few years – be it in the T20 World Cup or in the 50-overs format,” Rohit said of Pakistan, currently the top-ranked one-day team in the world.
“You don’t just become the number one side like that, it takes lot of hard work. They have been playing as a unit and it would be a great challenge for us facing them.
“We have prepared well, hopefully we can execute our plans well tomorrow.”
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by David Holmes)