Dubai: Former Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin, who had lifted the 1991 Asia Cup by playing a captain’s knock of an unbeaten 54 at Eden Gardens in Kolkata in front a packed stadium of 75,000 spectators, believes India can now go on to win the Unimoni Asia Cup in Dubai on September 28 following their demolition of Pakistan in the group stages.
Speaking to Gulf News, Azharuddin, who had played many spectacular knocks in the Asia Cup, said: “India should win the Asia Cup. There is no doubt about it now because after a win over Pakistan in which they played really well, they can go on to win the Asia Cup.”
Azharuddin is in the city after being appointed by T10 League as their director of talent hunt programme in India.
The legendary batsman has figured in many India-Pakistan matches and hence knows that the boost that a win over Pakistan can give to help India cope go all the way to final.
The first time Azharuddin figured in the Asia Cup was in 1988 at Dhaka. India captained by Dilip Vengsarkar then beat Sri Lanka by six wickets in the final.
“The victory over Pakistan was commendable,” Azharuddin, whom UAE fans remember as the hero of the Pepsi Asia Cup win in 1995, said.
“They really played well especially after what had happened in the match against Hong Kong. That is just a one-off thing. The bowling changes and the captaincy of Rohit Sharma were very good. I think bowlers really stuck to their job.”
Azharuddin’s unbeaten captain’s knock of 90 in the 1995 final at Sharjah Cricket Stadium had stunned Sri Lanka, who had posted a fighting total of 230 for seven.
Finest opening pair
The former Indian captain is excited about the fact that India have one of the finest opening pairs in ODI cricket in Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan.
“I think for one-day cricket we have the best opening pair,” he said. “Wickets are favourable to their batting as in flat wickets, always the ball comes into the bat. They are outstanding players. I think they are one of the best opening pairs in the world.”
Azharuddin was at his top form in the 1997 Asia Cup in Colombo. Despite his fighting knock of 81 runs in the final at Colombo, Sri Lanka lifted the trophy but he averaged a whopping 185 which included an unbeaten 81 against Sri Lanka in the first match too.
Azharuddin was surprised at how poorly Pakistan played on Wednesday. “I think Pakistan played very ordinary cricket,” he said.
“They made it look like an ordinary game. It appeared to me that the Pakistan team were derailed as they played under too much stress and pressure in their attempt to win the match. But at the end of the day when you have that kind of pressure, the pressure gets the better of you.”
Azharuddin believes India can win despite the absence of captain Virat Kohli, who is being rested after hurting his back during the Test series in England. “Kohli is a very good player and the X factor of the team,” he said.
“But I feel this team is still a good team. Kohli should take rest. He has been playing cricket continuously. When the player is not fit he should be given rest.”