Venkatapathy Raju: ‘India holds the edge over Pakistan’

The former India left-arm spinner calls on the Indian team not to be complacent for the Champions Trophy final on Sunday.

Venkatapathy Raju... “There is no doubt that [India-Pakistan matches] bring the best out of the players from both sides.”   -  Ch. Vijaya Bhaskar

Former India left-arm spinner S. L.Venkatapathi Raju knows what it means to be in the middle of an India-Pakistan match. He was a member of the Indian team that defeated its arch-rival in the World Cups in 1992 and 1996.

“History suggests that Indians handled the pressure better than them. We always held our nerves and it should be no different on Sunday. The important thing is that we should be cool, composed and not be over-aggressive,” says Raju in an interview with Sportstar about the Champions Trophy summit clash scheduled for Sunday.

“Let us be very frank. Both the Indians and the Pakistanis hate to lose a game against each other. The intensity comes out naturally compared to other games. Yes, there is no doubt that these games bring the best out of the players from both sides,” says Raju, who is now ACC Cricket Development Officer.

The 47-year-old Hyderabadi has a cordial relationship with many of the cricketers from across the world on and off the field. He recalls the way Javed Miandad jumped in the air to imitate Indian wicketkeeper Kiran More’s appealing in the 1992 World Cup match, and suggests these tactics are employed by players look to transfer the pressure.

“Given the track record of India against Pakistan in all the ICC events, I do feel that India have the edge when they take on them in the final on Sunday. We have a better batting line-up and a quality fielding side which will be up against, no doubt, a quality bowling attack. But, from what we have seen, when the expectations are high with them, Pakistanis have never really performed,” says Raju. “Yes, there will be lot of mind games if you see what the Pakistanis are saying now that the pressure will be on India and not on them in the final. This itself is actually a sign of pressure,” says the left-arm spinner of yesteryears.

‘Cannot be complacent’

“But, it will be naïve to dismiss Pakistan, despite India’s current form. We will certainly have the major psychological plus having beaten them in the league phase of this Champions Trophy. But, again, they are always a very dangerous team and we just cannot be complacent,” says Raju.

Referring to the expectations of the fans, Raju says that fans all over the world want their teams to win in these clashes. “With Pakistan not playing too many games at home in front of big crowds in contrast to Indians who are familiar with packed stands, the vociferous crowds can be a factor,” he says.

Raju is confident the young guns of India will play at their best. “They are all hardcore professional cricketers with the experience and ability to come good against any side,” he added. “At the end of it all, it all boils on how well one controls the nerves. And, I feel India has been more consistent in this regard,” Raju concluded.