Shastri cautioned India not to take the Pakistan team lightly

Written by Shreyas Vyas

Former India head coach Ravi Shastri on Friday labelled India as favourites ahead of the high-octane clash against arch-rivals Pakistan but asserted that the Rohit Sharma and co. will have to be on top of their game in the blockbuster clash.

Shastri cautioned India not to take the Pakistan team lightly as they have done really well in the last 7-8 years.

India take on neighbours Pakistan in their Asia Cup opener in Pallekele on Saturday.

“I would say India start as favourites. This is their strongest team since 2011, this mix of players. And a captain who is seasoned, who understands the terrain better than most,” Shastri told ESPNcricinfo on the eve of the fixture.

“Having said that, Pakistan have narrowed the gap. Seven-eight years [ago], there was a gap if you looked at the strength of both teams and man-to-man. But Pakistan have narrowed it down. They are a very good side, so you have to be on top of your game,” Shastri added.

Shastri went on to reveal that in such high-pressure games when stakes are running high, the key to victory is being calm and keeping your mind under control.

“That’s what’s important, keeping calm and treating it as just another game. And not overhype it in your mind that makes you think differently. Your game has to be the same as it would be in any other game. But because of that subconscious pressure, it’s the mentally tough guys who normally get it right,” Shastri said.

“When you look at the mix of players on either side, they are fabulous. And it will be a spectacle. In an India-Pakistan game, it is about who handles pressure better, who is calmer, whose thought process is clear. Those are the guys who will come through in those big occasions,” Shastri added.

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Shreyas Vyas