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We don’t have a Shaheen, Rauf, or Naseem to practice against in our net sessions: Rohit Sharma

The India-Pakistan cricket rivalry intensifies as they face off in the Asia Cup. Amidst high anticipation, both teams prepare for a thrilling clash in the 50-over format, promising captivating cricket.

The cricketing world is once again buzzing with excitement as arch-rivals India and Pakistan lock horns in the Asia Cup, and this time, the stakes are higher than ever. The clash between these two cricketing powerhouses is box office, regardless of the type of tournament it is set in, and fans from both nations are eagerly anticipating this marquee showdown.

This contest harks back to last year’s T20 World Cup clash at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), which remains etched in the memory of cricket enthusiasts as one of the most thrilling encounters. Before that iconic showdown, both teams faced off in the Asia Cup, which was played in the T20 format as a precursor to the T20 World Cup. However, with 2023 being the year of the ODI World Cup, the Asia Cup has reverted to its original 50-over format.

The pre-match press conference for this highly anticipated fixture saw much discussion about the potential sub-plot – Pakistan’s formidable pace attack against India’s batting prowess. Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf, and Naseem Shah form a potent trio that has troubled the best of batters worldwide. In the T20 World Cup, India found themselves under severe pressure from this trio before Virat Kohli orchestrated a remarkable comeback.

Shaheen Afridi’s prowess with the new ball has been a particular concern for India, given their struggles against the new ball in challenging conditions. However, India’s captain, Rohit Sharma, remained confident in his team’s ability to tackle this challenge. He quipped, “See, we don’t have a Shaheen, Rauf, or Naseem to practice against in our net sessions. But we are preparing to the best of our abilities with the resources we have. Pakistan has always had quality bowlers, and we have experienced players, so it’s about using our experience to deal with the challenge.”

Rohit Sharma also praised the Pakistan team, which recently achieved the top ranking in ODIs after a resounding 3-0 victory over Afghanistan. Pakistan started their Asia Cup campaign with a historic 238-run win over Nepal, setting high expectations for their clash with India. Despite India’s white-ball form being somewhat rusty this year, Rohit expressed quiet confidence in his team’s chances.

“Pakistan is a very good team. They’ve done exceptionally well recently, whether in the T20 World Cup or the 50-over format. No team becomes the top-ranked team by chance. It takes a lot of hard work, and I’m sure the Pakistan team has worked really hard. They are playing good cricket, and it will be a great challenge for us to face a team like this,” Rohit remarked.

India’s batting order has been a concern due to various injuries. Rishabh Pant, KL Rahul, and Shreyas Iyer have all faced injuries of varying degrees. While Pant is unlikely to return until early 2024, Rahul and Iyer are part of the squad for the Asia Cup, although Pant will be unavailable for the first few games. Rohit Sharma viewed this situation positively, saying, “I’d rather have this kind of a headache than no headache at all. It’s always nice to have this kind of competition and so many players being available.”

The India-Pakistan clash, scheduled for Saturday, September 2, will take place at Pallekele in Sri Lanka. The venue’s first match of the tournament witnessed Sri Lanka defeating Bangladesh in a low-scoring affair. The playing surface offered movement with the new ball, especially under lights, and spinners found grip. Rohit indicated that the team management had taken note of these conditions and was prepared with selection plans.

“All sorts of combinations are possible. We saw the game yesterday. There was a bit of swing, bit of spin, bit of everything. That is always going to challenge the batters. Luckily we have got experience in our batting lineup,” Rohit explained.

The conversation also turned to Rohit’s recent form with the bat. Despite stagnation in his white-ball numbers, Rohit’s improved strike rate in the Powerplay has given India fast starts. He acknowledged the need to balance risk and output, saying, “I’ve been playing for a while now, so it’s about me using the experience for the team’s good. As a top-order batter, my role is important, and it’s crucial for me to lay down a platform.”

Cricket fans around the world are eagerly awaiting this epic clash between India and Pakistan, and it promises to be a memorable encounter with both teams looking to stamp their authority on the Asia Cup and build momentum heading into the ODI World Cup.

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