The enormity of the Indo-Pak rivalry is not lost on R Ashwin, who considers it bigger than the Ashes but the Indian off-spinner also feels that players will have to keep their emotions in check during Saturday’s high-voltage World Twenty20 clash in Kolkata. (Full Coverage|| Fixtures||Photos)
India and Pakistan are heading into the much-anticipated clash with contrasting results. The hosts suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of New Zealand while Pakistan roared into form with a crushing win over Bangladesh.
“This rivalry is huge, it’s hard to say how huge it is. It’s probably bigger than the Ashes,” Ashwin said on the eve of the high-octane clash.
“As far as the Indians and Pakistanis go, I don’t think they watch this game as a game of cricket. It’s more of a border rivalry. They want to get one up on each other. There’s much more rather than this game taking centerstage. As far as people are concerned, they put their emotions into the game.
“For the players, it’s all about keeping their emotions aside and trying to play the best way we can,” he said.
Asked about pressure that the players have to face in such a game, Ashwin said they would like to take it easy.
“We don’t sit together and cram a lot of stuff into each others’ head. That will eventually lead to a lot of confusion. Everybody has different plans. As for me, I plan a lot and that has given me success in the past.
“We just take it as easy as possible. As far as the Pakistan game is concerned, we will take it lightly. We are used to playing a lot of India-Pakistan game. Every game that India plays is a pressure game. We are pretty much used to it,” he said.
Ashwin said India’s loss in the opening match against New Zealand, during which they were bundled out for 79 in a small chase of 127 could be a blessing in disguise.
“From here on if we go through, we will be more dangerous, than probably at the start of the tournament. I don’t think anybody has an edge. We start 50-50. They are upbeat after beating Bangladesh but if we can raise our standard and play to our potential, we can try and win the game as well.”
Asked why the Indians took the day off from training even as the Pakistanis sweated it out at the nets, Ashwin said, “They’re probably a little more hardworking than us. It was more about relaxing and nothing to do with who we are playing. We have been on the road for the last three months. The best thing we can do is to think of ourselves rather than sitting together and practising.
“Generally after a game like that you tend to go to practice and try harder and eventually go into the match day a little more tired. That’s the idea behind it.
“Leading up the World Cup, maintaining momentum is very important. We will have to pick it up from Eden Gardens.”
Pressure is buzzwoprd heading into the marquee clash but Ashwin said there are a lot of other factors that affect the players.
“Cricket is a psychological game. I find it quite amusing, when people say you will have to keep it simple, it’s not. It’s a psychological game. Unless you’re exceptionally talented you find yourself losing a psychological battle.”
Ashwin also preferred not to read much into their defeat against the Kiwis.
“If we knew we would have got out for 79, we would have tried to bowl them out for a lesser score,” he quipped.
“Unfortunately we did not. We have been doing a fabulous job. It was a bad day. They bowled brilliantly. We got to give credit to Santner. Obviously we contributed to their success. If at all there’s an International team which can put it behind and go forward, it is us.
“It’s not the first time this has happened to us. We have done it in the past. We have it in us to come back from behind. That is what we’re looking forward to. It’s about understanding the game, the ground, the wicket and all that. Whichever team gets used to it may have an edge.
“It’s not the right time to relook and revisit our strategies. It’s about fine-tuning and trusting our abilities. We can’t change a whole lot, can we?,” he concluded.