India v Pakistan: Pressure is the name of the games

It’s not just the fans but even the players have their share of tension ahead of an India-Pakistan match.

Pakistan’s Imran Khan bowls to India’s opening batsman Sunil Gavaskar during a Test match at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai in January 1980. The two had great respect for each other. Imran rated Gavaskar very high, while the Indian master reciprocated the same feeling for the Pakistani.   -  THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

India’s Rahul Dravid (centre) has a word with Younis Khan (left) of Pakistan. The two players have had a good rapport off the field. Younis had acknowledged how Dravid’s “useful tips” had helped him improve his batting.   -  THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

Navjot Singh Sidhu has an interesting anecdote regarding India-Pakistan matches. “On match days and the preceding phase, I just shut myself from the world. On the eve of the match, I even avoid room service in my hotel because the room boy would remind you not to lose the match against Pakistan. It only heightens the pressure. I remember, in Bangalore (the quarterfinal against Pakistan in the 1996 World Cup), I ordered milkshake late in the night because I had to have something. The room boy came, placed the glass on the table and as he left, reminded me not to lose the match. I cursed myself because that was exactly what I was trying to avoid. India-Pakistan match can mean so much to people on either side,” he said.

The players have had their share of tension ahead of an India-Pakistan match. One cannot forget the tense expression on Sachin Tendulkar’s face as he walked out to bat at the Centurion Park in the 2003 World Cup. Pakistan players were also tense.

On the eve of the match, a journalist from Pakistan had remarked how the players were unlikely to sleep well because of the pressure from their fans. Waqar Younis too confessed to being under severe pressure.

“A match-winning performance against India merits no less than an Oscar for a Pakistan player,” former wicketkeeper Rashid Latif had commented once in Sharjah. The players in either camp do feel the jitters but keep it to themselves. In the days of Sunil Gavaskar and Imran Khan, there was mutual respect for the players. Imran rated Gavaskar very high, while the Indian master reciprocated the same feeling for the Pakistani.

On the tour of England in 1996, on the eve of the second Test at Lord’s, the Indian team had a surprise visitor in Javed Miandad.

He was accompanied by the West Indian great, Vivian Richards, and the legendary squash player, Jahangir Khan. Miandad was cross about India having lost the first Test. “How could you?” he asked the Indian players.

Miandad then shared his experience and gave some technical inputs as the young brigade listened attentively. Those were the days when you could watch practice sessions from behind the nets.

Later, Miandad spoke his mind: “We (India and Pakistan) have our sporting battles, but that does not mean we can’t meet and talk to each other. Let our battles be fought on the cricket field, and not off it. Let us work together and work for a better future than fight over trivial matters. How I wish India and Pakistan could work together and make life difficult for the other teams. Imagine having a combined India-Pakistan team; who would stand up to such a combination?”

This was 20 years ago. Today, the teams don’t even have bilateral tours.

At a personal level, the players have little issues among them. There can be some on-field flare-ups, but these incidents have not involved the better-known players of the team. Sometimes, after a match, the players from Pakistan and India even dine together. When India toured Pakistan in 2004, Inzamam-ul-Haq hosted the team at his house and presented them with gifts. Zaheer Abbas is a gracious host to Indian cricketers visiting Karachi.

At the end of the 2005 ODI series in India, which Pakistan won 4-2, Younis Khan went to Rahul Dravid’s room in Delhi to wish him goodbye with a warm hug. He requested Dravid for a bat, which was duly obliged. He then returned to pick up a pair of pads and gloves. Younis had acknowledged in Pakistan how Dravid’s “useful tips” had helped him improve his batting. The players on either side feel the pressures, but take them in their stride and move on.

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WHAT THE FANS SAY

At home

There are two things I always discover whenever India-Pakistan match happens: first is that I see how passionate people from both the nations are about the game of cricket, and how the talk about bonding begins from there. And second, I easily find out who actually loves the game of cricket and who doesn’t. For me, India-Pakistan matches bring out an adrenaline rush because keeping the tensions aside, the packed stadiums and electrifying environment make it an altogether different experience.

Chetan Bhawani, 28 (dentist and a tech blogger)

Cricket since childhood has been a religion to me and so it was for most of us in the 90s, and before that too. I used to be so passionate that every time India used to bat, I would put my pads, gloves and helmet on and watch them; every time they bowled, I would have a red cherry in my hand. But India versus Pakistan was the epitome of it all. The biggest adrenaline rush was to see an India-Pak game; the entire family used to sit together and watch it and no one was allowed to move, and it was one big party! Until today that continues with friends and family even though now it has become a bit difficult to squeeze other matches with work. But me and my colleagues make it a point to take time out for an India-Pakistan game even though we may be crazily busy. It’s the biggest rivalry, how can we miss it?

Yuvraj Samant, 24 (lawyer, Supreme Court of India and the Rajasthan High Court)

India-Pakistan cricket means more excitement. Honestly, it’s not just sport when it comes to the two countries. There’s so much of emotion involved in it.

— Swaty S. Malik, (lawyer)

The India-Pakistan match is a sublime battle of grace versus grit, professionalism versus talent, desire for destruction versus desire for destruction!

— Sunil Bhandari, 55

Across the border

It is just like any other game of cricket. Of course, I like to see Pakistan do well but whosoever plays well deserves to win.

— Rana Tariq Saeed, 43 (barrister at law)

Feelings have been destroyed, no more emotions. And about expectations, well, we shall not have any expectations with the current team.

— Seerat Waseem, 25 (teacher)

An India-Pakistan match means an opportunity for people of both sides to come closer and bridge the gaps between nations.

— Huma Sadaf, 29 (freelance project writer)

India-Pakistan match is life and death for us, the overseas Pakistanis.

— Abdul Rahman Khan, 28 (safety manager, UAE)