AFC Asian Cup: Sunil Chhetri - India have prepared very well

The veteran striker, who was also a part of the 2011 squad will look to lead by example...
A veteran of more than a hundred national team caps, Sunil Chhetri feels team India have prepared much better for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup as compared to 2011.

Speaking at the launch event of India's new kit for the Asian Cup in the UAE, the national team skipper mentioned how the burden of expectations would be carried by the whole squad, not just him.

"The burden is equally on Jeje (Lalpekhlua), Gurpreet (Singh Sandh), (Anirudh) Thapa, (Sandesh) Jhingan, Udanta (Singh) and others, I think if you ask anyone, they will know their names since they are huge stars. I only do the easy work up top scoring the goals but these are the players who are most important for our success.

"These players have done excellently for India over the past few years and wherever India is today, it is all due to the efforts of these players. I’m just a small player, these are the big and most important stars of the team," he said.

The 34-year-old told how the preparations have been different than what it was like for the last edition in Qatar in 2011.

"I think the preparation then was conducting a full six-month camp. This time, all the players have got game time playing with their respective ISL (Indian Super League) and I-League clubs. I think the preparation is exactly how the coach wanted so you can ask him if he is happy with it or not, I think the boys have prepared well.

"Thankfully, whoever have been called, there are not many injuries which is very important for such a tournament. We have an important two and half weeks coming up to prepare and we are focused on putting on a good show."

India Asian Cup

India are clubbed with hosts UAE, Thailand and Bahrain in Group A. When asked what he thinks of India's chances, he replied, "I was there for the draw and we had a mock draw first. I was thinking at that time as to what kind of draw would be good for us. But when I saw the rest of the 23 teams, I knew no matter whom we get, it would be very difficult.

"I think I was more happy that we have qualified and I think we are ready to face anyone we got. With respect to the three teams (Group A), they are difficult sides but we are very well prepared now. It is more about how we will play but I think we are very well prepared."

A 34-year-old Bhaichung Bhutia led the India team into the 2011 edition, at the twilight of his career. Chhetri didn't want to be drawn into comparisons with the legendary striker.

"I will try but I don’t think I can lead like him. Along with Bhutia, there were so many other senior players like Samir Naik, Renedy Singh, Abhishek Yadav and Deepak Mondal. Whatever I have learned from them, I try to do the same thing.

"I think it is more important to lead by actions rather than words. That is why I try my best to be on time for all meetings and everything else so that I lead by example," he said.