Comment: Good that India, Pakistan are playing early in the showpiece

Published January 16, 2015
Javed Miandad poses with the ICC World Cup 2015 trophy. — AFP/File
Javed Miandad poses with the ICC World Cup 2015 trophy. — AFP/File

No cricketing contest can ever match the thrill and excitement of what a Pakistan versus India contest offers — it is the mother of all games.

Whether it’s a one-sided affair or a nail-biting finish, people from both countries get involved so much that sometimes it is just not cricket! Whenever or wherever we play against each other, fans from all age groups in our two cricket-mad countries forget their Things To Do. They simply get glued to their TV sets or watch the action on giant screens in a hope that only their team would win.

The lucky ones have the tickets to the Adelaide Oval for the absorbing contest, which is now just 29 days away. It was the first match of the mega event which got sold out within hours of the tickets going up for sale on Feb 14, 2014.

I think the International Cricket Council (ICC) did the right thing to showcase this iconic game early in the World Cup, instead of slotting it midway through the group stage. It will take off some pressure from both the sides and they will concentrate more on their remaining pool matches. I do believe that all the matches in an ICC World Cup deserve equal importance, but there are some contests which build extra pressure and stress on the players.

What I would like to see is another exciting contest and whoever win in Adelaide, fans should treat it as a loss on sporting field and nothing else.

I would like to see the Pakistan versus India rivalry more on the cricketing field and the only way going forward is by improving our cricketing relations – both on and off the field.

While it’s tough to pick winners of the Feb 15 encounter, Pakistan’s loss of Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal through injuries and suspension, respectively, is a huge setback.

Considering the depth in India’s batting line-up with the likes of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Ajinkya Rahane and Mahendra Dhoni, their big batting pillars, Umar and Saeed could have been proved handy for Pakistan. Without these two, I can now only hope that Mohammad Hafeez clears his retest as Pakistan need experienced bowlers against what is sure to be a highly-experienced India batting line-up.

India’s recent 2-0 Test series defeat in Australia will count for nothing in defence of their World Cup title. In fact, they will be more acclimatised and have more knowhow of the pitches than the Pakistan team.

The BCCI did its homework well by scheduling its team’s tour to Australia before the all-important event. Players need time to adjust to the conditions and pitches in countries like Australia and New Zealand, and the Indian team have grabbed that added advantage.

Remember, we also went to Australia in 1992 a month before the World Cup. We didn’t win a single warm-up or practice match, but the experience of playing on various pitches helped our players when it mattered most in crucial matches.

Pakistan haven’t played in Australia for quite some time now.

Misbah-ul-Haq, Younis Khan, Shahid Afridi and Ahmed Shehzad need to adjust quickly in a short time. We need big scores, keeping in mind the bowling resources we have and I feel nothing less than 300-325 could challenge India’s strong batting.

In ODI cricket, not all of the top six batsmen have to score. What Pakistan should not forget is they need, at least, two of their top-order batsmen to score heavily and then the rest could chip in with 30s and 40s to give the scoreboard a solid look.

Pakistan should also forget the horror stats of having never beaten India in a World Cup match. In fact, what they should remember is that we lost against them in 1992 too, but it was us who lifted the World Cup trophy at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Pakistan should not get sidetracked in case the result doesn’t go in their favour on Feb 15. The focus should be to win the World Cup!

Playing and winning the first match in any big tournament gives a team an added confidence, but it doesn’t guarantee you a place in the final. Similarly, for the losing side, it doesn’t mean the end of the tournament. In fact, the loss should push you to do more, and better, in the remaining games of the mega event.

I would love to see good gestures from players of both teams and send out a strong message around the world that we love to play against each other. I know the tempers could flare up in the heat of the moment, but I do hope the captains of both sides will lead by example and there will be no nasty incident on the field during the course of what is expected to be an engrossing battle between bat and ball.

In the end, one team have to win and the other have to finish on the losing side. There should be no hard feelings. I have been part of a number of India-Pakistan matches played with tremendous intensity and emotions. As a professional cricketer, I believe your country should always come first. Nobody likes to lose, but if you don’t lose, it won’t make you a better player.

Neigbours will always remain neigbours and by playing against each other in tournaments like the ICC World Cup, we can help make our relationship even stronger. Sport is an ideal tool to unite people. Everything else will fall in place if we play against each other more often with lots of sportsmanship.

I don’t want to pick my winners of the Feb 15 contest. I just wish both sides a big good luck and whomever perform better on that day should be well-deserved winners. The losing side should take the defeat gracefully and sportingly, and without any hard feelings.

—Courtesy ICC

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2015

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