India's Ravichandran Ashwin said that it is vital for India to not go into the Champions Trophy 2017 with the mindset of defending it. The ace off-spinner opined doing so would put them under inordinate pressure.
"As far I am concerned handling pressure is all about (taking) one game at a time. If you think too far ahead and try and think (that) you are defending the title, it's going to be unnecessary, undue pressure on you. But as you build up every game and try and gain momentum, you (eventually) become a favourite of the tournament," the Tamil Nadu player said.
Having taken 82 wickets and scored four half-centuries in 13 Tests against New Zealand, England, Bangladesh and Australia in India's dream home Test season, Ashwin grabbed the 'International player of the Year' award at the Ceat Cricket Rating International awards 2017. However, sports hernia forced him to opt out of the 2017 Indian Premier League (IPL) and he chose the two-month break to recuperate for the Champions Trophy.
While a break must have rejuvenated him for the challenging tournament, he could take time to get back into his elements given that he has not had any match practice. When asked about how has he prepared for the upcoming mega event, Ashwin said, "It's been going through my head and I have been working on a lot of stuff based on how the game is changing and throwing the pace at you. I might be able to throw something new in this tournament. I am equipped enough to do,"
"Hopefully, the two practice games (India play New Zealand on 28 May and Bangladesh on 30 May) will give me an indication on how well I go in the tournament and how well my variations come to the fore," he added.
Suresh Raina, who is on standby for the tournament, was also present at the awards function which took place at the Cricket Club of India (CCI) in Mumbai on Wednesday.
Switching from one format to another takes a toll on every player. That is what will happen with all the Indian players and also with a few overseas players at the Champions Trophy. It is not only about changing the thought process but also getting acclimatised to the English conditions.
"I think it is not easy, when you are playing the Twenty20 format for two months, and again you have to switch on to the 50-over game, especially in the cool conditions (of England). I think a lot of rules have been changed, two new balls are there and most importantly it is important to see how you can do to the (contribute for) the Indian team," stated the Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat Lions captain.
Raina, one of the best fielders in the country, also insisted that being in the slip cordon in England will not be easy against the pacers and the players will have to be on their toes to ensure that chances are not spilled.
"It is very difficult to stay in the slips when the bowler is bowling 140-145 kph. One has to just keep expecting the ball is coming at you and don't want to drop those slip catches. They (bowlers) are going to punish you big time," joked the southpaw.
A lot of young Indian players seized the limelight in the 2017 IPL. Rishabh Pant, Washington Sundar, Ishan Kishan, Rahul Tripathi, Sanju Samson, Basil Thampi, Siddharth Kaul, to name some, made the most of their opportunities and showcased their talents on a world stage. Acknowledging it, Ashwin noted that while it is still the biggest platform Indian players get, it is still important to assess and monitor the growth of these youngsters to ensure that they don't fade away.
"From my point of view, IPL has done only good for Indian cricket. A lot of players from other countries have echoed the same feeling about how much talent India is throwing up from IPL and it will continue to happen. But the only key point from IPL is to take these players, identify them, nurture them and give them enough opportunities," he quipped.
When Ashwin decided to take rest from the 10th edition of the IPL, eventual runners-up Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) turned towards another off-spinner Washington Sundar to fill in the former's spot. The 17-year old excelled and was most impressive against Mumbai Indians in the first Qualifier at the Wankhede Stadium. Ashwin was aware of the youngster's potential but also praised him for performing the way Sundar did. He also spotted the pace variations and the lengths that Sundar bowls and mentioned that he puts the batsmen on the back foot which makes it slightly difficult to play him.
"I think, Washington did really well in the Vijay Hazare (trophy) this year. I had heard from a couple of people that he is going pretty well. I had just seen very little of him in the TNPL (Tamil Nadu Premier League). He has got good idea of how to bowl in T20s and to ball with the new ball is a massive challenge," Ashwin remarked.
Former Indian captain Sunil Gavaskar, who presented Ashwin with the 'International Player of the Year' award, took the opportunity to wish India for the Champions Trophy. Shubman Gill, a part of India's Under-19 team, won the 'Young player of the Year' accolade for scoring two centuries against England's U-19 team in February, which his side won 3-1. He also played for Punjab in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and amassed 220 runs at an average of 36.66 in six matches.
Updated Date: May 29, 2017 14:35 PM