Indian cricket team skipper Rohit Sharma offered up no excuses for India’s lackluster showing against Hong Kong in their opening game of the Asia Cup 2018 but believes that his side will learn from their mistakes.
“We always knew it was not going to be easy. There are no excuses. We made our mistakes. This tournament is all about learning and these guys will learn. But in the end, the team pulled it back,” Rohit said at the post-match presentation ceremony.
He also singled out Shikhar Dhawan and Ambati Rayudu for praise. The former scored a century while the latter got a well-hit fifty.
“When the going gets tough, a couple of the characters did well. This will be a great learning curve for the bowling group. Shikhar was a great positive. It was not easy out there. Amabati got a brilliant fifty as well.”
Rohit also had good words for debutant Khaleel Ahmed, who ended the game with figures of 3 for 48 despite not starting the game in an ideal manner.
“Khaleel is a very exciting player to have in our squad. Today, he showed that despite not starting well he found a way to come back and got his rewards in the end.”
It was largely because of Shikhar Dhawan's 120-ball 127 and Rayudu's 70-ball 60 India managed to reach 285 for 7 in their 50 overs. In reply, Hong Kong, who were bowled out for 116 in their first game against Pakistan, got off to a best possible start with openers - Nizakat Khan (92) and Anshuman Rath (73) – adding 174 for the first wicket. However, the moment Rath was dismissed, Hong Kong batting line-up fell like a pack of cards and India managed to survive a scare.
"We didn't expect that they were going to score a 174-run partnership," praised Dhawan. " But they played well and, of course, we could have been more consistent in our bowling but we have to give credit to their batsmen.
"Both the opening batsmen played really well. The way they played their shots and the way they were calculative about scoring runs, it was good. I have to appreciate their good batting as well."
It was in the 35th over when Kuldeep Yadav got rid of Rath before debutant Khaleel dismissed Nizakat eight runs short of a well-deserved century. Dhawan said there was hardly any assistance for the bowlers, who did well to pull things back in India's favour after a massive opening partnership.
"There wasn't much of a swing or seam on the wicket," Dhawan pointed out. "Not that we didn't know much about Hong Kong, of course, we watch videos where the player's batting or bowling.
"Some of our bowlers were playing after a long time. Like Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar Kumar) coming after a break, Shardul (Thakur) was in England but he didn't play a match for two months. So it takes time to get into the rhythm as well. And at the same time, Khaleel bowled really well. Of course we couldn't get the wicket at the start but later on the way, we came back in the game and the way our fast bowlers or spinners as well, they both took wickets, that was good."
At once stage, it looked like Nizakat and Rath would take the game away from India but Dhawan and his team knew all they needed was just one wicket.
"We knew that once we get the top-order wickets, we can come back in the game. Obviously, they gave a decent fight and it is always good to learn from every match," he said. "It's good that we played this game and built pressure. Tomorrow (against Pakistan) is going to be a big pressure game, so that pressure (against Hong Kong) will actually help tomorrow."
The amount of time it took India to see off Hong Kong will undoubtedly raise questions over why India chose to put out a much-changed starting XI but Rohit defended the changes, stating they were necessitated by the schedule, with India set to face Pakistan on Wednesday. “We know we are playing back-to-back and that is why we rested a few players. We are now looking forward to the game tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, Dhawan said India will go with a "positive and strong" mindset against their arch-rivals. "The ideal situation will be to have a break and then play. We all are humans, so we also get tired as well. But at the same time, we are quite strong enough. Once we go and come tomorrow, of course, it's a big game, and we all are going to be positive and strong."