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Imran Khan advises Sarfaraz ahead of Indo-Pak blockbuster

Pakistan Prime Minister wants Men in Green to play fearless cricket

PHOTO: AFP

Pakistan Primer Minister Imran Khan has said that Men in Green should play fearless cricket against India, during the 2019 International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup clash in Manchester.

Ahead of the clash on Sunday, Khan also had a word of advice for Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed.

“In order to have a winning offensive strategy Sarfaraz must go in with specialist batsmen and bowlers because ‘Raillu Kattas’ rarely perform under pressure - especially the intense kind that will be generated today,” said Khan on his official Twitter account. “Unless pitch is damp, Sarfaraz must win the toss and bat first.”

He further stated: “Finally, even though India may be the favourites, banish all fear of losing. Just give your best and fight till the last ball. Then accept whatever the result like true sportsmen.”

Khan, who led Pakistan during the triumphant 1992 World Cup campaign also spoke about the importance of mental strength.

“When I started my cricketing career I assumed success was 70 per cent talent and 30 per cent mind. By the time I finished playing cricket I felt it was 50:50 ratio. But now I tend to agree with my friend Gavaskar that it's 60 per cent mental strength and 40 per cent talent. Today role of mind will be more than 60 per cent,” said Khan.

He added: “Today, given the intensity of the match, both teams will come under great mental pressure and the power of the mind will decide the outcome of the match today. In Sarfaraz we are fortunate to have a bold captain and today he will have to be at his daring best.”

He also wished the team good luck for the all-important clash against their arch-rivals.

“All fears of losing should be banished from the mind as the mind can only process one thought at a time. Fear of losing leads to a negative and defensive strategy and crucially mistakes by opponents are not pounced upon,” he said. “The nation's prayers are with all of you. Good Luck.”

The eyes of more than a billion television viewers around the globe will turn to Manchester when arch-rivals India and Pakistan meet on Sunday in the most highly-anticipated group match of the World Cup.

Such was the desire of fans to cheer on their heroes in person that, according to the International Cricket Council's own figures, there were some 800,000 applications for tickets to watch the match at an Old Trafford ground where the capacity is 26,000.

It's no wonder then that officials are desperate the match does not fall victim to rain in what is already a record World Cup for washouts.

"India v Pakistan is always a big game - it's like the final before the final," said Pakistan selection chief Inzamam-ul-Haq. "It's watched all over the world and whoever wins on Sunday will surely have a big celebration."

This match is all the more eagerly awaited because political pressures have put a stop to India-Pakistan fixtures outside of major tournaments.

India cut off bilateral cricket ties with its neighbour after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, which authorities blamed on Pakistani militants.

Pakistan toured India in 2012/13 for a series of one-day internationals and Twenty20 matches but that was their last encounter outside of a multi-national event.

And there were calls for a boycott of Sunday's match after tensions soared following a deadly incident in the divided territory of Kashmir earlier this year.

In February a suicide bombing in the Indian-administered section, claimed by a militant group based in Pakistan, killed 40 Indian troops.

India and Pakistan then carried out tit-for-tat air strikes.

Remarkably, given the strengths of both sides, India have won all six of their previous World Cup encounters against Pakistan.

India also beat Pakistan in their most recent match at the Asia Cup in the United Arab Emirates last year.

But Pakistan can take heart from the final of the 2017 Champions Trophy in England, when they thrashed India by 180 runs.

An India team led by star batsman Virat Kohli have lived up to their billing as potential champions with two wins and a washout in three matches so far.

The number-two ranked side won their opener against South Africa and then beat title-holders Australia before a no result against New Zealand.

Pakistan, by contrast, are struggling in the 10-team event with just one win — an upset against England — two defeats and a washout.

But former batsman Inzamam, a member of the Pakistan team that won the 1992 World Cup, insisted all was not lost for Sarfaraz Ahmed's side.

"I believe Pakistan have the ability to win the World Cup," he said. "They haven't performed too well so far, and Sunday is important for them to stay in the competition."

The stakes are not as high for India but that is unlikely to ease the pressure on Kohli's men.

"It's been competitive for years. It's a marquee event all over the world, and an honour to be a part of the big game," Kohli said. "It brings out the best in all of us."

Some supporters put winning Sunday's match above seeing their side lift the World Cup trophy.

"We want to win this match even if Kohli loses the Cup, we don't care," Harron Memon, an India fan in Nottingham, told AFP.

Pakistan, for all their World Cup woes, have won 73 of their 131 one-day internationals against India and one Pakistan fan tweeted: "We have always dominated India in cricket. Call it war or sport, we are certainly going to win it come Sunday."

Former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram, however, urged supporters to keep the match in perspective.

"One team will win, one team will lose, so stay graceful and do not take this as a war," he told AFP in Manchester. "Those who project this match as war are not true cricket fans."

Meanwhile former India captain Bishan Singh Bedi, made his own appeal for calm by telling AFP: "May there be peace and tranquility while the two Asian giants fight it out on the cricket field. And may the better team win without losing out on the etiquette of cricket."