India vs Pakistan hype for gains, pressure real: World Cup veterans Latif, Prasad weigh in

Aware of the jingoism and hype that precedes a India vs Pakistan cricket match, both Rashid Latif and Venkatesh Prasad, looked at things differently.

For Prasad, the Bangalore triumph, which was only his third match against Pakistan, brought “fame” but greater joy came from the one in Manchester.   -  v.v. krishnan

Venkatesh Prasad and Rashid Latif, two leading characters of an epic India-Pakistan clash in the 1996 World Cup, wondered if the intensity and quality of cricket had dwindled in recent times. “It has,” felt Latif. “To a large extent yes,” agreed Prasad.

Aware of the jingoism and hype that precedes a cricket match between the two nations, both Latif and Prasad, looked at things differently. “It's all done to suit the media which milks such occasions to reap financial benefits. It (the hype) has political overtones and believe me it does little to promote cricket or healthy relations between the two nations. It also puts players under needless pressure,” Latif told Sportstar from Karachi.

Prasad, the hero of India's World Cups wins against Pakistan in Bangalore (1996) and Manchester (1999), was philosophical. “Much of it is hyped up. I know things were tough when we were in Manchester. There was the Kargil War and there were huge expectations from the people. Even if you don't wish to I confess you get sucked into it a good week before the match. Everyone, every moment, reminds you of the match and it was so in 1996 and 1999. It plays on your mind and the pressure leaves you drained. It is the same for both teams but I can't say how is it now. We are a much stronger team than Pakistan.”

Indian batsmen Sachin Tendulkar and N.S. Sidhu are in a discussion at the end of an over as Pakistan wicket keeper Rashid Latif passes by, in a quarterfinal match between India and Pakistan during the Cricket World Cup 1996 at Bangalore.   -  V.V. Krishnan


Latif welcomed the expectations. “They bring the best out of you. Sadly one team has to lose and we lost in Bangalore but I think it was the most memorable match for me. It was a fantastic contest and taught us many things. Never to be complacent, never to take the opponents for granted.”

How were the relations between the players? Latif observed, “There was mutual respect among the players. We all played hard, sometimes crossed the line, but returned to acknowledge the opponents. I have some great friends in Indian cricket. You can't imagine the respect Sachin (Tendulkar), Kapil (Dev), (Mohammed) Azharuddin, (Anil) Kumble, and many more have in Pakistan. Friends off the field and competitors on it. There is nothing like winning against India. It makes you an instant national hero.”

For Prasad, the Bangalore triumph, which was only his third match against Pakistan, brought “fame” but greater joy came from the one in Manchester. “Fans remember the (Aamer) Sohail dismissal but Manchester was a huge challenge. The atmosphere was electric. We had only 227 to defend and they had a formidable batting line up (Saeed Anwar, Shahid Afridi, Ijaz Ahmed, Saleem Malik, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Moin (Khan). I remember our fielding was extraordinary. Azharuddin took two exceptional catches at slips. Beating Pakistan was special because they had a solid batting line up.”

A decade after Javed Miandad sank India with a last-ball six at Sharjah, Prasad gave India a moment to cherish at Bangalore. Virat Kohli's team carries the legacy forward and Latif concludes, “Let the best team win! It is only a cricket match.” Prasad agrees.

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