Principal Correspondent

Karachi: A trip across the Wagah can strengthen resolve or weaken spirits. And amidst the tales of Kapil Dev hitting Sadiq Mohammad’s helmet in 1978 and Sachin Tendulkar’s assault on Abdul Qadir in 1989, there are lessons to be imbibed for young Indian cricketers. Lessons that are not necessarily about coping with conditions which, in any case, are similiar to India in terms of flat tracks and sultry weather. Nor is it about coping with culture shock because, as M.S. Dhoni said, “our language and cultures are similiar.”

It’s got more to do with the mind, of handling diverse perceptions, coping with mounting expectations and the resultant fame or notoriety engineered by a win or loss against the arch-rival. However, with a spate of matches in the last four years, tension seems to be dissipating though players from both sides say that pressure is always there.

“Any international game has got pressure, be it against Pakistan or Bangladesh. May be since we are playing Pakistan often, it’s been a bit less. Before, you played Pakistan once in two or three years and obviously the expectations put pressure because you do not know when you will play them again,” Dhoni had said at a recent press conference.

Part of learning curve

Pakistan’s wicket-keeping legend Wasim Bari stressed that matches between the sub continental rivals adds to a young cricketer’s learning curve. “India and Pakistan should play every alternate year. There might have been a dip in the enthusiasm, but it is still a much-cherished contest. Youngsters will benefit a lot by playing each other and new talent will also come up,” Bari said.

But what do the youngsters in the teams feel? Robin Uthappa, part of a generation that is distant from the scars of partition, said: “We prepare for a match against Pakistan like we do against any other team. We want to win but as far as we are concerned, there is no baggage of the past.”

Former Pakistan opener Mohsin Khan believes that the on-field rivalry will always be there despite the warm bond off the field.

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