"You look at Afghanistan as a prime example,” Rath pointed out. “Back in 2011 to 2015, they were performing like us – upsetting the odd team but going through a string of performances where they were getting bowled out for 140-150 on good decks. Just like we did against Pakistan.
"With the right backing, they started to get better and better, training a lot harder, fully contracted – the professionalism was there. And now they're pretty much about to top Group B in the Asia Cup. Today we proved that we are capable of it, and a lot of associate teams are capable of it."
Unlike in the game against Pakistan, where they were bowled out for just 116 in 37.1 overs, Hong Kong showed no signs of surrender to the supremacy of India. They only allowed India to gather 48 runs of the last 10 overs and restricted the Rohit Sharma-led side to a below-par score. Rath said his team lacked confidence against Pakistan, which was not the case this time around.
"It was just a confidence thing. You looked at the way we batted against Pakistan. You could tell we were a bit timid, a bit rigid, sort of 'oh my god, we're playing Pakistan'," said Rath.
"When we restricted India to just 280, we knew it was a good batting deck but obviously India has the bowlers, but we knew that 280 was about par. Only just over par, I reckon. We had the batting firepower, we had nothing to lose. So, I said 'game on here'."
Rath himself played a starring role in Hong Kong’s effort. After restricting India to 285 for 7, his opening partnership with Nizakat Khan, who hit 92 off 115, added 174 runs, with the captain scoring a composed 73 in 97 Balls. However, the moment Rath fell to Kuldeep Yadav, they lost the momentum and could only manage 259 for 8 in their 50 overs.
"I think today was bitter-sweet," he said. "We really proved to the world what we can do. In saying that, we had India by the horns and really should've finished it off, if we are being hard on ourselves, which we should be.
"After the first 10 overs, we were 58 for no loss and I just looked at Kat (Nizakat) and said we can actually turn India over. When me and Kat were out there, I could tell that the Indian players were getting anxious. I think Shikhar bhai walked past and he said to Dhoni that 280 won't be enough here, we should've got 350."
First Published: September 19, 2018, 10:24 AM IST