DUBAI: Sarfraz Ahmed, the Pakistan captain, hasn’t taken the Asia Cup scheduling too kindly, given it will leave his team travelling back and forth from Abu Dhabi to Dubai for the Super Four stage of the Asia Cup. This will also be the case for Afghanistan and Bangladesh, while India have been exempted from the 90-minute trip.
According to Cricinfo, as per the rules, the team that finishes second in Group A will play their first Super Four game in Abu Dhabi. However, a late tweak has been made by the organisers to ensure India will continue to be based in Dubai, irrespective of where they finish in the pool.
“If you talk about the pool, India remain here even if they lose,” Sarfraz said. “Travelling is an issue. If you travel for one-and-a-half hour during matches, then it’s tough. In this weather, it is tough because after one day you play another game. I think it should be even for all the teams, whether it’s India or Pakistan. If there are matches in Abu Dhabi, then every team has to play there. I don’t know what the Asian Cricket Council has done about it.”
Scheduling aside, a focused Sarfraz fielded a variety of questions, from the pressure of an India-Pakistan game to the hype associated with it. His solution to prevent players from feeling the pinch of an India-Pakistan contest is to play every game with that intensity. He has, however, been telling his team one thing – “The Champions Trophy win is history. Don’t look too much into it.”
“It’s in the past now. Obviously, it was a great win and we have good memories that will be with us forever, but this is a new game, a new event,” he said. “The atmosphere has changed, we have winning momentum [from the game against Hong Kong] which we want to carry forward.”
The one thing he has completely distanced himself from is social media and television news. He had a taste of the build-up for the clash back home, but wants to stay away from the hype to remain focused. He hopes his team would be able to do the same. There will be added attention to the match, with Imran Khan, their World Cup-winning captain and now Prime Minister of the country, likely to be in attendance.
“We’ll try to take the game as a normal game. I’ve told the players to play the match in the same manner as we do normally,” Sarfraz said. “The fans say that whatever happens you have to win, but as a captain, I have to win against every team. It would be the same for India too. Yes, their [fans’] wishes give us inspiration. In the past, it has happened that whoever performs in the [India-Pakistan] match becomes a hero.”
Sarfraz also didn’t make much of India being without Kohli. “As far as India is concerned, Kohli is their captain for the last two years or so, so as a team it [playing under someone else] is different for them,” he said. “I don’t know what Rohit’s thinking as captain is, whether he takes the same strategy. [Kohli] is a world-class player, but they have got some very good players and have done well in the past.”