One of India's greatest spinners, Harbhajan Singh played more than 350 international games and captured 711 wickets.
At the end of the day, an India-Pakistan game has got more to do with pressure than anything else. The team that handles the ‘P-factor’ better on the day is more likely to win.
Over the years, India has learnt how to deal with pressure. And this isn’t just against Pakistan. In any case, the Pakistani team of the day is no match for its teams of the past. There was a time when Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Saqlain Mushtaq, Saeed Anwar, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf used to play in the same team!
I haven’t seen too many youngsters capable of handling pressure in the current Pakistani set-up. That said, I quite like Sarfraz Ahmed, the wicketkeeper-batsman. Also, their batting isn’t anywhere close to what South Africa (AB de Villiers and Faf Du Plessis) and India (MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma) can boast.
When it comes to the ‘danger-man’ in their squad, I think Shoaib Malik is one player who plays spin really well. Once he gets used to the conditions, he can take on any bowler, be it a spinner or a fast bowler.
The other player to watch out for is skipper Sarfraz because he is very intelligent. In the bowling department, Pakistan has Mohammad Amir. India needs to play him carefully, especially when he’s armed with the new ball.
At the international level, there is pressure before any game. I would say that there is now more pressure when we face South Africa and Australia or even England for that matter. These teams worry us more than Pakistan. There is always pressure. If there is no pressure, you will be over-confident.
Having said that, an India-Pakistan game does get treated differently.
I remember the India-Pakistan semi-final in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. I didn’t sleep the night before the match because I was constantly thinking about what people would say and how they would react if we were to lose.
I remember telling a few people to keep vigil outside my home so that the crowd doesn’t break anything should things not go our way. One does think about such things too. The Prime Ministers of both countries were coming to watch the game. There were a lot of celebrities and top personalities in the stadium just to watch the two teams clash. But once you step on to the field, you forget who is watching you. All you want is to win the game.
People expect a lot more from you when you play Pakistan. It seems like we’re going to war with them. This certainly gets to the players.
That said, I couldn’t sleep after the game either as I was too happy celebrating! All of this happens when you face Pakistan.
As far as the mind games are concerned, this is not a boxing match where you go to a press conference and talk about things. I don’t think that the things said before the game matter much. Simply put, the team that doesn’t crack under pressure on the field will come out on top. I’m confident that India will win on Sunday because it has a far superior line-up.
My best memory of an India-Pakistan game is the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 semi-final. I took two crucial wickets — Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi. It was after that point that I felt the match had swung our way. I was happy that my contributions led us to victory. It helped us book a place in the final. It was more special as the match was played on my home ground — Mohali.
This article appeared courtesy of icc-cricket.com
Champions Trophy 2017 Guide
Squads: Every Champions Trophy nation
2 June – New Zealand v Australia, No Result
4 June – India v Pakistan, Edgbaston (D)
5 June – Australia v Bangladesh, The Oval (D/N)
6 June – England v New Zealand, Cardiff (D)
7 June – Pakistan v South Africa, Edgbaston (D/N)
8 June – India v Sri Lanka, The Oval (D)
9 June – New Zealand v Bangladesh, Cardiff (D)
10 June – England v Australia, Edgbaston (D)
11 June – India v South Africa, The Oval (D)
12 June – Sri Lanka v Pakistan, Cardiff (D)
14 June – First semi-final (A1 v B2), Cardiff (D)
15 June – Second semi-final (A2 v B1), Edgbaston (D)
18 June – Final, The Oval (D)
19 June – Reserve day (D)