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‘I’m at the top of my game’

Dale Steyn during a practice session, in Dhaka, on Thursday, ahead of their semi-final against India

Dhaka: For Ravichandran Ashwin, competition from Amit Mishra is not a matter of concern. Rather, he is concentrating on his game.

“To be really honest, I’ve never bothered about who’s breathing down my neck. That’s not how I play my cricket. I believe in improving every day. Unless you don’t keep improving, you’re not going to last the distance. You lose outů” Ashwin replied on being asked about competition from leg-spinner Mishra.

Having got two Man of the Match awards in the last two matches, the off-spinner said that he is “at the top of his game”.

“In the last two or three months, I feel that I’m probably at the top of my game. The ball is landing exactly where I want it to land,” he said.

Ashwin said playing alongside Mahendra Singh Dhoni for Chennai Super Kings (CSK) has helped him.

“It’s not about what I’m doing or where I’m given the ball. I’ve been playing alongside Dhoni for some time, and he probably knows where to use me and where not to use me.”

Talking about facing South Africa on Friday, Ashwin said: “The one thing that will give this young side an advantage is that we don’t carry any baggage. We’ve not lost big competitions, so there will be no scars with us. We have nothing to lose,” he said.

Ashwin expects that left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso will play a part in Friday’s match.

“I expect Phangiso to play. When that happens, you’re pretty much evened out on the amount of spinners both teams will play. It comes down to how well your spinners handle it,” he said.

Ashwin was not ready to think too much about Shane Warne attending the South African net session on Wednesday and providing tips to the spinners.

“I don’t know what the South African management called him (Warne) for. Probably, he could add value in terms of what he can do to a spinnerů Imran Tahir could learn something from himů But we are not sure if Warne can create a difference in a day’s time. So we aren’t losing sleep over this issue,” Ashwin said.

He also sounded confident about sorting out opposition captain Faf du Plessis, who has been his teammate at the CSK.

“I know Faf pretty well, I know the way he bats, I know his strengths. I can only prepare for what I’m going to do against Faf, rather than looking at the totality, just knowing what he does against the spinners.”

Faf, on the other hand, said he has learnt a lot from Dhoni during his stint with CSK.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time in Chennai and my time with Dhoni. I have been there now for three years. I have learnt quite a bit from him as a captain. He is very good and an inspirational leader and he has had huge success for India. But my style of captaincy is completely different to his,” Du Plessis said.

Du Plessis termed India the “favourites” while calling his team “underdogs”.

“India are regarded as one of the favourites and we as underdogs.

“We have been playing very well as a team and we have had different guys performing in every single game, so we are not relying on someone.

“It’s important to play the key moments well. It is a high pressure game and if you make the right decisions on the day you will be on top,” he said.

Du Plessis admitted that India would have an advantage going into the match having played all their matches at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium here.

“It's a huge thing. The wicket at Dhaka is completely different to Chittagong. We have played all our games there (Chittagong) and India have played all their games here.

“From the conditions point of view, they are much more used to these conditions than we are and we have put in some really hard practice to speak on really abrasive surfaces making sure that we almost over-practised against the ball that is turning too much,” he observed.