Bonding cement and ignoring Miandad
Until the end of the Indian tour of Pakistan, we will be running a daily Paper Round of what newspapers in India and Pakistan, and from around the world, are saying about this series. This is what the media had to say today:
Imran added that the series assumed greater significance because it came against a backdrop of decades of mutual hostility which nearly boiled over into a nuclear war two years ago. "Therefore people are really skeptical, is it really heading towards peace? I feel that the two governments have realised that war is not an option. This is a realisation which came after their forces were eyeball to eyeball for so many months in 2002."
Imran, while assuring a friendly atmosphere throughout the tour, said, "There will be a lot of rivalry and competitiveness on the cricket field but there will be intermingling of civil society. Lots of Indians are coming here to watch cricket. This will help ease the tensions. Even an incident does occur, then the two governments will quickly smother over it."
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There has been frenetic activity among the punting community as they prepare to leave Mumbai towards the outskirts. The Mumbai Age quotes a leading bookie from the city as he said, "Though we take in bets for all the matches played around the world throughout the year, this is a money-making tour for us and we don't want to take any chance that could spoil our party. The police will not spare any effort to track us down, so we have decided to stay away from the city and operate in peace."
Apart from betting on which team wins the game, the bookie spoke about `session betting' being more popular. "In session betting, there will be bets taken on how many runs will a side score in 15 overs, 30 overs and then in the last 20 overs." Most of their operations will be from Gujarat and the reason offered is fascinating. "Gujju's have a lot of money, they are very calculative and are inclined towards such things. Even if there is a 10 paise profit, they will latch on to it, as they have plenty of black money to pump in. So the entire Gujarat belt is going to be our prime location for business."
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Javed Miandad, the Pakistan coach, has urged the citizens of Karachi to show exemplary behaviour during the opening match of the one-day series at the National Stadium on Saturday. Dawn reported him making a passionate appeal to the people of Karachi to show that they are truly hospitable and good hosts. "This series is being played at a time when both governments are trying to bring about peace in the region. We should set examples by playing excellent hosts to the Indian cricketers, their people and the media. Since Karachi is hosting only one match, the onus is on people to make it an unforgettable and memorable occasion."
Miandad felt that there will a huge amount of emotional tensions that the players will be subjected to. "We must be ready to play under pressure. The political pressure, the pressure of the matches itself and above all, the pressure of the public in both countries. But we must not let our emotion get the better of us."
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Balwinder Singh Sandhu, the former Indian swing bowler, has some sound advice for the Indian team. Rediff.com reports him urging the players to completely neglect whatever Miandad had to say, especially once they got on top of Pakistan. "If they [Pakistan] lose, he will get very tough on the team. He is a bad loser and will start mouthing a lot of stuff. Ignore him. The madder he gets, the better for us."
He also provided Sourav and his team with some shrewd tactical advice. "The Indian team should go and wish the man sitting next to Miandad, but not wish him. He was a great cricketer, but if we wish to win we must ignore him on and off the field."
Bishan Singh Bedi had a word of caution about the crowds as well. The Asian Age quotes him as saying, "What they've got to be careful about is the crowd. Let us not forget that the crowd cheering would be for the home team. So stuff cotton in your ears and play the game, that is it."
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Shahbaz Ahmed, one of the legends in Pakistan hockey, says he cannot wait for the tour to kick off. AFP quoted him as saying, "I am as excited as anyone else. India have not played a Test in Pakistan in 15 years so this is obviously a very special moment for our two countries."
He predicted the intensity in these encounters to be of a high voltage and said, "Look, India and Pakistan just don't want to lose to each other, be it cricket or hockey or any other sport. Our mindsets are like that. The public reacts horribly when we lose so the players are always on their toes. It becomes more than just sport. It should not, but it does. I don't believe a word when people say an India-Pakistan match is just another game."
Interestingly he didn't think the series was going to be closely contested and predicted one of the teams to win comprehensively. "But my gut feeling is that it will not be a close contest as everyone predicts. My experience of playing hockey against India shows that once a team starts to win, it is very difficult for the other to catch up. The initial edge lasts for the entire tour. I can't tell you why it happens, maybe it is psychological, but it happens."