Ahead of India’s opening match in Men’s T20 World Cup against arch-rivals Pakistan at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday, skipper Rohit Sharma quashed talks of differentiating both teams as ‘favourites’ or ‘underdogs’, saying the first round of the tournament showed terms like that don’t exist on match day.
The first round of the T20 World Cup saw two-time champions West Indies crash out of the tournament as Ireland and Zimbabwe made the cut from Group B for Super 12. In Group A, 2014 champions Sri Lanka managed to enter Super 12 despite being handed a shock loss in their opening match by Namibia, who in turn suffered losses to the Netherlands and UAE.
“Whenever we come to the World Cup, people talk a lot from the outside that ‘they are favourites, those are underdogs, they will do well, those will do bad’. Qualifiers (first round) showed us that there is no difference between underdogs and favourites. You need to play well on that particular day to win the game. I believe that you need to be good when you come to the ground and keep your mindset well, think about the things to do or not to be done and the results will follow.
“My personal belief is I don’t believe in favourites or underdogs. I believe that you have to think about that particular day and if you don’t reach the ground well or not have the right mindset, then things won’t happen. If you go to the ground with the right mindset and know what has to be done as well as keep things easy, you will get to do what you want to do,” said Rohit in the pre-match press conference.
When India met Pakistan last time in the T20 World Cup, it was in 2021 where the Babar Azam-led side thrashed them by 10 wickets in Dubai. But left-arm pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi was the star performer for Pakistan, picking 3/31 in his four overs and taking out the top three of Rohit, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli.
Rohit acknowledged that the battle between Pakistan’s bowlers and India’s batters will be keenly awaited by everyone in the stadium, at the same time, he felt fielding will play a key role for producing good performance in Sunday’s match.
“We know how good Pakistan’s bowling line-up is and our batting order is highly experienced. There is a good atmosphere when two competitors face off against each other. We do know that Pakistan’s bowling will challenge us and our batters will be ready for that challenge. For the spectators as well, there becomes a very good atmosphere to watch the match as it’s always a good contest between India and Pakistan.
“But I would say we do have talked about a few things, like how we need to bat, bowl as to win the match, you need to get their batters out. For us, it will be important to do both things right. Also, we shouldn’t forget fielding here as it will play a very important role. We have to keep all three aspects of the game in mind to do well.”
India-Pakistan matches have always been termed as high-pressure matches, but Rohit had a different outlook ahead of Sunday’s game, terming it as a ‘challenge’. “I don’t want to use the word pressure; it’s always constant. I would like to take this as a challenge and want to use that word a little more as this Pakistani team is a very challenging team. All the Pakistani teams I have played against, from 2007 till now, they have been a good team.
“It’s just that I believe in on that particular day kind of thing. On that particular day, if you are good enough, you will beat any opposition and if you are good, you take the win and go home. That is what has happened in the last so many years; Pakistan were good and beat us last year, they were good in Asia Cup.
“We were good too; we won the first game and they won the second one. But unfortunately, we were out of Asia Cup because we didn’t win the important games made us see out of the tournament. They have been playing good and we know their brand of cricket. Luckily, we got to play them in Asia Cup twice otherwise we don’t play them at all.”
Rohit further elaborated that the unpredictability factor associated with Pakistan will make it very hard for India to understand their mindset, but he would want for his team to keep things as simple as possible.
“It’s very hard to gauge what sort of mindset they play with. When we faced in Asia Cup twice, they and us as well were missing some players from the squads. It’s important to understand what is their strength, weakness; we have tried speaking about those kind of things.
“In a World Cup, you can’t underestimate any team. You just got to be coming on that day very well prepared and thinking how you got to beat that opposition. Try and keep it simple really, not think about so many things as it can add pressure or confuse you a little bit.
“More you keep things simpler, better you get the job done, that is what our focus has been and constant talk has been about just relaxing ourselves a little bit and not worry about other things like ‘we haven’t won an ICC trophy’.”
“It is there in the back of the players’ mind. But it’s important to keep that away and focus on job at hand at the moment because that’s my belief that if you focus too much on past, you can’t concentrate on the present and it’s important to focus on the present.”