Imran Khan reaches Kolkata to rally Pakistan ahead of India match

Published March 18, 2016
World Cup winning captains Kapil Dev of India and Imran Khan of Pakistan speak during a promotional campaign in Mumbai. — AFP/File
World Cup winning captains Kapil Dev of India and Imran Khan of Pakistan speak during a promotional campaign in Mumbai. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s legendary cricketer Imran Khan left for India on Friday to attend the 2016 World Twenty20’s marquee clash between the two sub-continent giants.

A buoyant Pakistan side will take on the hosts India at the iconic Eden Gardens on March 19.

But Imran, who accompanied his once most trustworthy striker Wasim Akram, will be much more than a spectator.

He will be providing captain Shahid Afridi with “experience-based tips” to rally Pakistan, who have a history of underperforming against India in big games.

“Shahid Afridi had sought my advice on Pakistan's match against India. I don't know what exactly Pakistan team's grey areas are, but I will try to give them suggestions in the light of my own experience,” Imran told reporters at his Bani Gala residence.

“I’ll suggest the players against succumbing to any pressure.”

Imran, 63, will also be meeting West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during his stay. “People-to-people contacts are necessary for bettering the relations between the two neighbours,” he said, but added “the relations should be based on mutual respect”.

Meanwhile, Pakistan coach Waqar Younis attempted to downplay the hype surrounding the game, saying it was ultimately just a game of cricket.

“We should take it as a sport,” said Younis.

“There is history between the two nations, not only culturally but also cricket history. The way we have played cricket in the past 50 years it's a treat to watch for the world. It's the most watched game. So we should all cherish that and feel proud of it.”

An upbeat Pakistan come into the match after thrashing Bangladesh, but will have to overcome their World Cup jinx against India.

Pakistan have never won a World Cup encounter against their arch rivals in six 50-over meetings and four T20 clashes.

“History can always be changed,” said Younis.

“We are a bit more confident this time. They can go out of the tournament and that is a big plus for us.

“They will be under more pressure. We have won our opening game and lot of things going in our favour.”

In case you missed it: Pakistan upstage Bangladesh

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