We're just weeks ahead of the much-anticipated Asia Cup 2018, and the build-up to the headline fixture of the tournament has already begun. India and Pakistan, the fiercest of rivals, have been pitted in the same group, and are set to lock horns with each other on September 19.
However, Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik played down the hype surrounding the fixture. Speaking to the reporters ahead of the team's departure for the tournament, Malik said: "I think that the match against India is just another game and we should avoid creating hype as it adds unnecessary pressure."
Though, he believes that the fixture serves as a great opportunity for players to leave their mark. "This is perhaps the only cricket match that the entire cricket fraternity watches and not only India and Pakistan fans, which is why it provides a massive opportunity to players if they want to become a hero," he added.
The last time these two teams met was in the final of Champions Trophy 2017, where the Men in Green (Pakistan) beat Men in Blue (India) by 180 runs. And taking this victory as cue, Pakistan's premier fast-bowler Hasan Ali had different views as he belives his team has the edge over their arch-rivals. He further insists the pressure will be on India, who will be without Virat Kohli.
PTI quoted him as saying, "We are on top right now. They (India) are under pressure from the previous defeat. In UAE, these are our conditions, we have the home advantage as we have been playing here for long, and are aware of how to use the conditions."
India announced their squad for the Asia Cup 2018 earlier this month, and Kohli was left out, meaning Rohit Sharma was handed the captaincy. Rohit will skipper the team, while Shikhar Dhawan will be his deputy.
Ambati Rayudu, Manish Pandey, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar mark their return to the squad after an impressive showing in the recently concluded quadrangular series. Another superb performer from the India A squad, Khaleel Ahmed, the 20-year-old pacer from Rajasthan earns his maiden call-up to the squad.
The United Arab Emirates is set to host the 14th edition of the Asia Cup. The matches will be held at two venues - Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai and Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
Asian heavyweights India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Hong Kong, who qualified, will feature in the competition. The Indian cricket team are the defending champions of the tournament - which was played in T20 format prior to the start of the T20 World Cup. However, the 2018 edition will see it revert back to its original 50-over format.