Rohit Sharma and Babar Azam
Captains Rohit Sharma of India and Babar Azam of Pakistan address press conferences on the eve of their game in the DP World Asia Cup, in Dubai on August 27, 2022. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

The weight of history and the intense rivalry overshadows cricket whenever India and Pakistan clash in a tournament. That’s an inescapable fact, although Pakistan skipper Babar Azam and Indian captain Rohit Sharma were swift to dismiss it on the eve of their game in the DP World Asia Cup on August 28 (Sunday).

Both captains insist it’s just another match for them, although Pakistan’s win in the T20 World Cup casts a long shadow on the contest. Sharma and Azam played down the significance of Pakistan’s first major win over India.

“The T20 World Cup match has passed; it is a new day tomorrow. We have the confidence, but it all comes down to the match day,” Azam said during the press conference. “Everyone waits for the match between India and Pakistan. It is important to enjoy this game,” he added.

A match without Afridi and Bumrah

Azam’s words were echoed by Sharma, who admitted that the loss had hurt the Indian at that point in time. “We have moved on. We have learnt from it and rectified the mistakes. That was last October, and we have played a lot of cricket after that. This is a new game, and it’s a fresh start,” he said at the press conference.

“The mood in the camp is buzzing. What has happened is past. Take one game at a time. We will be focusing on that. We want to focus on the game,” Sharma added.

Pakistan has suffered a double blow, losing pacemen Shaheen Shah Afridi and Mohammad Wasim. Skipper Azam admitted that Afridi’s absence would be felt but added that there are other young players with experience playing the PSL (Pakistan Super League) and other T20 tournaments.

“Shaheen is one of our best bowlers, he bowls with aggression, and he leads the attack, so we will miss him. If Shaheen had been there, it would have been a different game. But our other bowlers are also good; we have high confidence in the camp,” Azam said.

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India too are without their spearhead Jasprit Bumrah, but captain Sharma feels they have enough depth in bowling to make up for Bumrah’s absence. The Indian skipper refused to be drawn into discussions on the composition of the team.

“We have not decided on playing eleven. We will look at the pitch and decide accordingly. Everyone in the squad is in the scheme of things. We have to get the best combination. Dinesh, of late, has played very well,” he added.

The teams are evenly matched, and that should make for an interesting tussle. No doubt, the Dubai International Stadium will be packed with Indian and Pakistan supporters. The game should hold clues to the winners of the tournament.