Despite the demoralising defeats against Sri Lanka and Pakistan, India middle order batsman Ambati Rayudu put his weight behind stand-in skipper Virat Kohli and his teammates, saying that the captain as well as the team are putting in as much effort as they could. "He has been learning a lot from Dhoni bhai. He has been very proactive and did a fantastic job against Pakistan. Although we have been losing, we are putting in a lot of effort," Rayudu told reporters on the eve of their last round-robin tie against Afghanistan in Asia Cup here.
"We have been learning a lot as you have seen, the games have been extremely close. We are putting heart into it and that is all we can do as cricketers," he added.
If Bangladesh can pull off an upset win over the defending champions Pakistan on Tuesday, India would have a slight chance of making the finals by registering a bonus point victory over Afghanistan. "We would like to go out there tomorrow and win with a bonus point and see what happens. We are just bothered to go and win with a bonus point. We will analyse it after today's match.
"They (Afghanistan) are a very good bowling side as we have seen in the competition. We just need to keep our head down and make sure we get runs," Rayudu said. (Also read: Why India won't play the Asia Cup final)
Rayudu struck 58 off 62 balls, as he along with Ravindra Jadeja (52 not out off 49 balls) took India to 245 for eight against Pakistan. Defending the modest target, India almost had the game in hands before Shahid Afridi smashed two sixes off Ravichandran Ashwin's bowling in the final over to win it by one-wicket.
"We are doing the best we can, in whatever capacity. It is just we lost the game -- I would say by a metre more than anything else. It's unfortunate we are ending up on the losing side," insisted Rayudu.
On their back-to-back failures, he said: "If you look at the pattern of the games, I think all the teams have struggled in the middle overs because the wicket is slower and the ball standing a little bit. "There were wickets falling a bit so we needed to consolidate and at the end of the innings the scores were not 350 but 250. But the matches have gone to last ball. It is not actually we are not scoring or anything. It is same with all the teams," explained Rayudu.
He said the pitches were undoubtedly slow, but as professionals, they should not be complaining. "We were not expecting a batting-friendly pitch. Whatever the nature of wicket, we are here to play as professionals and we can't complain about it."
Expected to fill into the big shoes of Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina, Rayudu said he would take confidence from his half-century he scored in a pressure game like India-Pakistan. "I think I'm learning in every game. The last game has given me a lot of confidence because I played under a lot of pressure. We lost wickets and India-Pakistan is always played under pressure. I'm happy I could keep my head down and we could put a total on the board that we almost defended," he pointed out.
On India's slow strike rate up the order, Rayudu said: "It is always difficult at the top of the order because most of the fielders are inside, not even for singles. In the middle overs, we make sure we get a lot of singles because scoring boundaries has become difficult because of the wicket. That way we are learning."
Asked about the middle order continuing on a listless show after their series defeats in South Africa and New Zealand, Rayudu said: "I'm not too sure about New Zealand but I can talk about Asia Cup. We have been fairly doing well. I suppose the scores we have got on the board are not less by any means.
"As you know, I'm sure the games have gone down to last two overs, even last ball. It is just unfortunate that we are ending up as losing side. I'm sure we are learning. We will be a much better side in the coming days and tournaments."
Rayudu, who will be replaced by Suresh Raina in the World Twenty20 to be held later this month, wished India luck for the upcoming tournament. "I'm not in the T20 team. I am sure, I hope and I pray that we win the tournament."