Sarfraz, Rohit promise blockbuster India-Pakistan clash

Captains of India Rohit Sharma, left, and Pakistan Sarfraz Ahmed listen to a question from a journalist during a press conference ahead of Asia Cup cricket at Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. (AP)
Updated 18 September 2018

Sarfraz, Rohit promise blockbuster India-Pakistan clash

  • The game is the first between the sub-continent rivals since Pakistan thumped India by 180 runs in the final of the Champions Trophy at The Oval in June last year
  • The two teams are facing each other for the first time in the United Arab Emirates since 2006, the last of their regular matches which were also held in Sharjah between 1984-2000

ABU DHABI: Rival captains Sarfraz Ahmed and Rohit Sharma played down the hype surrounding the much-awaited India-Pakistan clash in Dubai on Wednesday, insisting that the Asia Cup is much more than a contest between the arch-rivals.
But despite their claims, millions of fans across the border and elsewhere in the world will be watching the Group A clash, with a sold-out 25,000-crowd expected at Dubai Stadium.
The game is the first between the sub-continent rivals since Pakistan thumped India by 180 runs in the final of the Champions Trophy at The Oval in June last year.
The two teams are facing each other for the first time in the United Arab Emirates since 2006, the last of their regular matches which were also held in Sharjah between 1984-2000.
Sarfraz, who led Pakistan in that memorable Champions Trophy triumph, denied that his team will have a psychological advantage.
“We will not take that Champions Trophy win in our minds,” said Sarfraz on Monday, a day after his team thumped qualifiers Hong Kong in their first match of the tournament.
“That was a different atmosphere (in London) and conditions. It was a year ago so that’s history so we will enter the ground with a new strategy and passion.”
India will also meet Hong Kong in Dubai on Tuesday to tune up for the big match. India’s regular captain and world-class batsman Virat Kohli has been rested for the competition to help his aching back after a grueling tour of England.
But Sarfraz refused to accept Kohli’s absence will make much difference.
“No doubt he (Kohli) is their captain and a world-class batsman but I think they (India) have a good team even without Kohli.
“They have good players who have done well for India. So I don’t think it will make much difference to India. Their batting is very strong so I can say that it will be a good match.”
Sarfraz has told his players just to enjoy the occasion.
“My message to the players is not to bother about the result and do (their) best and when you do that you get a positive result in all matches because there are five other teams as well,” he said.
Five-time Asia Cup champions Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are in Group B.
India have won the event — which started in 1984 — six times, while Pakistan have been champions twice.
Two teams from each group will qualify for the Super Four stage, with the top two to reach the September 28 final.
So barring any upsets against Hong Kong, India and Pakistan will also face off again in the Super Four on September 23.
India skipper Sharma said his team will be looking beyond Pakistan.
“It’s always exciting to play Pakistan, but it’s not about one team as well. There are other teams also eyeing the title,” said Sharma, who has the rare record of scoring three one-day international double hundreds.
All six teams have to endure extreme hot conditions in the UAE, with the temperature scaling to over 40 degrees Celsius and expected to rise further in the coming days.
Sharma said his side will get a chance to assess the conditions in their match against Hong Kong.
“Once we finish the first game we will look at Pakistan, what their strengths and weaknesses are. Looking at the pitch, I think we have the perfect combination and the guys to do the job.
“A few players have come from England so it’s going to be a challenge for them.
“For the rest of us, we have been here for the last four days so I can probably say we are very much used to the conditions.
“It’s game time, so we have to focus on the game rather than the conditions.”


Southgate to bring Sterling back from England exile

Updated 17 November 2019

Southgate to bring Sterling back from England exile

  • World Cup semifinalists ‘still have room for improvement as they chase first major title since 1966’

PRISTINA:  Gareth Southgate is set to bring Raheem Sterling back from his brief England exile in Sunday’s qualifier against Kosovo as he seeks to end the controversy over the Manchester City star’s row with Joe Gomez.

Sterling was dropped for Thursday’s 7-0 rout of Montenegro after clashing with England team-mate Gomez in the Three Lions’ training base canteen.

It is believed Sterling was unhappy with Gomez following an altercation with the Liverpool defender during City’s Premier League defeat at Anfield last weekend.

Although Sterling was left out of the Montenegro game as punishment for his attack on Gomez, Southgate has confirmed the winger will return for England’s final Group A fixture.

Sterling and Gomez, left with a scratch under his eye after the incident, are said to have patched up their relationship, but the center-back was jeered by England fans at Wembley when he came on as a substitute against Montenegro.

Both Southgate and Sterling expressed their support for Gomez and criticized the booing supporters, with the England manager reportedly comforting the shocked 22-year-old and his family after the match.

Now Southgate could include Gomez against Kosovo in a show of support for the Liverpool player.

With England already guaranteed to qualify for Euro 2020 in first place in their group, Southgate already planned to make changes, although he is keen to ensure England finish with a win as they eye a top-six seeding in next year’s tournament.

“We will make some changes, for sure, but the seeding in the group could be critical and we know it’s a big night for the Kosovans,” Southgate said.

“It’s a shame for them that they’re now out of this part of the qualification, although they’ve still got the playoffs in which I think they’ll be a huge threat in that format. “So, it will be a good test for us because it will still be a lively environment.

“The enthusiasm for the game is high and we want to finish the group with as many points as we can.”

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson could return following a one-match ban, while Southgate has to decide whether to keep faith with Ben Chilwell ahead of Danny Rose at left-back.

Harry Kane may have scored a hat-trick against Montenegro but it was Leicester’s Chilwell who was named England’s man of the match following a fine display in which he provided three assists in the opening 24 minutes.

“Ben, I liked the hunger in his game, the enthusiasm to get forward,” Southgate said.

“The whole team pressed well but he also pressed well from that full-back position, got into overlaps, his quality of delivery was excellent.”

Although England have cruised through their qualifying group, Southgate believes the 2018 World Cup semifinalists still have room for improvement as they chase a first major title since 1966.

“There were a couple of chances we conceded that just shouldn’t happen, so that’s still part of our game that we’ve got to improve upon,” he said.

“If we are to be a team that are going to challenge seriously, although we’re young, we’ve got to manage games well.

“We’ve got to make sure that, although we’re such a fantastic attacking threat, the rest of the team is right as well. There are things we’ve got to be better at.”