Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin insists the clash between arch-rivals India and Pakistan is bigger than the Ashes; says it's border rivalry
Kolkata: India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin is known to be a straight-talker and at yesterday's pre-match press conference, he made no bones about the fact that today's big ticket clash against Pakistan is as good as a do-or-die encounter for the Men in Blue. "The (Indo-Pak) rivalry is huge… it's bigger than the Ashes. It's not a game. For Indians and Pakistanis fans, it's more than a game, it's a border rivalry," said Ashwin ahead of today's Eden Gardens World T20 encounter.
Ravichandran Ashwin. Pics/PTI
India lost their tournament opener by 47 runs to New Zealand's spin department of Mitchell Santner (4-11), Ish Sodhi (3-18) and Nathan McCullum (2-15) and Ashwin accepted that the Kiwi tweakers had indeed surprised the World No 1 ranked T20 outfit in Nagpur, leaving them in a precarious position of needing to win three of their remaining games (vs Pakistan, Bangladesh in Bangalore and Australia in Mohali) or risk a premature exit from the competition.
'Credit to NZ spinners'
"We have to give credit to all the three New Zealand spinners, Santner, McCullum and Sodhi, for the way they bowled, and we also contributed to their success in a way. But from now on it's very simple as far as we are concerned. We've almost put ourselves in a position where we have to go out there and win every game," added Ashwin.
Finally, an India-Pakistan match can be devoid of anything but pressure and Ashwin was posed the inevitable question about how they handle the high-pressure situation.
India skipper MS Dhoni (right), Harbhajan Singh, Mohammed Shami and Rohit Sharma (left) share a light moment during a practice session at Eden Gardens in Kolkata yesterday
Ashwin explained: "We're used to playing a lot of Indo-Pak games, so I don't think we really see lot of pressure in this game. It's the fans who bring a lot of emotion into the game, but we have to keep our emotions in check. Up until now, we've managed to keep the pressure away from us during our preparations. It's all about gaining momentum, we ditched momentum in Nagpur, but we have to pick it up from here.
I believe if there's any team that put a defeat behind and move forward, it's us, because we have the wherewithal to bring about a turnaround. From hereon, if we go on and presumably make our way to the final, I think we will be a lot more dangerous than how we started off. Pakistan may have started well against Bangladesh but tomorrow (Saturday) it will be 50-50."