World Cup 2019: Asif Iqbal feels India-Pakistan matches put the players under tremendous pressure

Asif Iqbal, former Pakistan skipper and ICC match referee, had represented the Asian nation in 58 Tests and 10 ODIs between 1964 and 1980.

Asif Iqbal played four Ranji Trophy matches for Hyderabad before migrating to Pakistan and representing it both in Tests and ODIs (file photo).   -  Sportstar

For Asif Iqbal, an India-Pakistan contest may not be just another match, and he would not miss a “ball” because of the intensity it generates. As he looks forward to the Sunday meeting between the two, Iqbal pleads, “treat it as a cricket match. One team will lose and let not the players from the losing team be unreasonably berated.”

Speaking to Sportstar from his home in London, Iqbal, former Pakistan captain and one of the finest all-rounders to have represented Kent, said, “An India-Pakistan cricket match has always the makings of a classic. It can be exhilarating stuff for the fans even though it does put the players under tremendous pressure.”

Iqbal played four Ranji Trophy matches for Hyderabad before migrating to Pakistan in 1961. In fact, he played for South Zone against the visiting Pakistan in early 1961 and by the year-end made his debut for Karachi. “The pressure of performance is always there because the expectations from all stake holders involved is huge. To me, it is always the biggest match of International cricket. Cricket is more than a sport now but the players are human. They can make mistakes. So let us not just shower them with adulation only when they win. Treat them as sportsmen.”

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Aware of the extreme reactions from the fans to a result in an India-Pakistan match, Iqbal pointed out, “Why become hostile to the same players you would have supported before the match. Just because they would have lost? I think the media and former players who comment on the game have a responsibility to educate the fans. Some of my former colleagues too react strongly and I think it is totally unfair. If they learn to congratulate the winning team, it may not be their own, a strong message would be sent to the fans.”

As Iqbal observed, “Some former cricketers may be better than the present lot but they must understand the game has evolved. A total of 250 is not a winning score now because of T20. I don't give views on T20 because I am not qualified to do so. The current players have a different mindset and they are a remarkable lot because they handle immense pressure.”

The chief architect of cricket in the Gulf which saw some incredible India-Pakistan encounters at Sharjah, Iqbal said, “It happened because the players and the cricket boards were willing. I hope India and Pakistan play more regularly.”

Ahead of the Manchester match of the World Cup, Iqbal hoped, “I am sure it will be an excellent contest. I only hope it doesn't rain. The scheduling of the World Cup has been poor.” He will support “Pakistan” when it plays India. “But I support India when it plays another team.”