India face Pakistan in high-voltage showdown

- AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, Manchester

Jun 16, 2019-

Virat Kohli will have history on his side when India take on arch-rivals Pakistan in a World Cup blockbuster on Sunday—a clash that is always more than just a game of cricket.

India cut off bilateral cricket ties with its neighbour after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, with authorities blaming Pakistani militants. Pakistan toured India in 2012/13 for a series of one-day internationals and Twenty20 matches but they have not faced each other outside of a multi-nation tournament since. Tensions between the two countries soared earlier this year and some Indian fans and ex-players called for India to boycott the match at Old Trafford.

In February a suicide bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir—divided between India and Pakistan since partition in 1947—claimed by a militant group based in Pakistan killed 40 Indian troops. India and Pakistan then carried out tit-for-tat air strikes. On the pitch, India have won all six of their meetings against their neighbours in World Cups as they look to maintain their perfect record in Manchester. India beat Pakistan in their most recent encounter at the Asia Cup in the United Arab Emirates last year.

But at least Pakistan can look back for inspiration to the final of the 2017 Champions Trophy in England, when they thumped their fierce rivals by 180 runs.

Kohli’s side have lived up to their billing as one of the favourites along with holders Australia and hosts England, with two wins and a washout in three matches so far. The No 2 ranked side won their opener against South Africa and then beat defending champions Australia before a no result against New Zealand. Pakistan, by contrast, are struggling with just one win—an upset against England, two defeats and a washout.

Kohli downplayed the frenzy and excitement surrounding the high-octane clash, with more than a billion people set to tune in, but said the “intimidating” atmosphere would bring out the best from his players. “For Sunday, we know we’re there when it comes to the mindset. Just about going out there and having a game plan, executing it,” said Kohli. “As soon as you enter the field, it’s calm and relaxed. The atmosphere from the outside, for the first time, it’s a bit intimidating, but we’ll look to execute well.

Pakistan skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed said his team needed to learn from their mistakes to get past a powerful Indian side. “We have to overcome our mistakes because India are also a very strong team. We will assess our performance and then we will plan,” he said. Passionate fans of both sides want local bragging rights even if their team ultimately goes on to lose the tournament. “We want to win this match even if Kohli loses the Cup, we don’t care,” Harron Memon, an Indian fan in Nottingham, said.

 

India-Pakistan moments

Miandad turns kangaroo (1992)

India’s one-day rivalry with Pakistan dates back to 1978 but it was not until 1992 that they locked horns in a World Cup. India won comfortably but it was Pakistan’s Javed Miandad who stole the show with his cheeky on-field antics. Annoyed by India wicket-keeper Kiran More’s constant appealing, batting great Miandad did a kangaroo-hopping imitation of the gloveman. Pakistan may have lost this match but they went on to be crowned champions.

Jadeja blitz in Bangalore (1996)

Long before the advent of big-hitters in Twenty20 cricket, India batsman Ajay Jadeja took Pakistan speedster Waqar Younis to the cleaners in a 1996 quarter-final in Bangalore. Waqar was hammered for 40 runs in his last two overs as Jadeja smashed 45 off 25 balls to guide India to 287-8, a total they defended with ease.

Prasad seals the deal (1999)

Venkatesh Prasad was the star in a game played against the backdrop of the Kargil war. A raucous sell-out crowd in Manchester at Old Trafford witnessed paceman Prasad dismantle Pakistan’s strong batting line-up with a return of 5-27. India won the game by 47 runs.

Tendulkar pummels Akhtar (2003)

India batting great Sachin Tendulkar got the better of Pakistan spearhead Shoaib Akhtar, hitting the fast bowler for a six high over backward point en route to a 98 that set the tone for India’s successful run-chase in a league match following a hundred by Pakistan’s Saeed Anwar.

Afridi bowls, fielders drop (2011)

It was a given dropping Tendulkar would prove costly for Pakistan but giving him four reprieves in this semi-final was something else and sparked several conspiracy theories. Tendulkar was dropped on 27, 45, 70 and 81 -—thrice off the bowling of Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi who said “sorry” to his nation after the loss. Tendulkar top-scored with 85 as India booked their berth in a final where they clinched their second World Cup title with victory over Sri Lanka at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium—their star player’s home ground.

Published: 16-06-2019 10:17

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