Mohali: Pakistan are
playing their Cricket World Cup semi-finals some 230 km from Lahore
and a majority of their players are not missing home in the familiar
environs of Punjab. The common folk heritage of the two regions has
to a large extent eased the pressure on them, says their manager, Intikhab Alam.
This is the closest the Pakistan team came from home to play a match
after they had been ostracised by the international cricket
community in the wake of the Lahore terrorist attack on the Sri
Lankan cricket team in 2009 and after being dropped as World Cup
Come to think of it, Mohali is closer to Lahore than Delhi!
Barring captain Shahid Afridi, Asad Shafiq, Junaid Khan, Umar Gul
and Younis Khan, the remaining players hail from the prosperous
Punjab province across the border. Even Intikhab, a former Pakistan
captain, was born in the industrial town of Hoshiarpur, a three-hour
drive from here. His two main lieutenants, coach Waqar Younis and
bowling coach Aaqib Javed, are from Punjab.
Misbah-ul-Haq (Mianwali), Abdul Razzaq (Lahore), Abdur Rehman (Sialkot),
Ahmed Shehjad (Lahore),
Kamran Akmal (Lahore), Mohammad Hafeez (Sargodha), Saaed Ajmal (Faisalabad),
Shoaib Akhtar (Rawalpindi), Umar Akmal (Lahore), Wahab Riaz (Lahore)
all hail from Punjab province, across the border.
Intkihab is no stranger to Mohali and he fondly remembers the two
years he spent here, 2004-06, coaching the Punjab Ranji Trophy
"It feels nostalgic to be back in this city. It used to be my home
for two years, when I was coaching the Punjab cricket team,"
Intikhab told IANS at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium,
the club house of which was his residence during his stint as Punjab
Intikhab, who was coach-cum-manager of the 1992 World Cup winning
team and also manager of the team that won the World Twenty20 in
2009, said his boys are enjoying their stay and that is also helping
them to stay calm ahead of the high-intensity clash against India.
"My boys are enjoying their stay here, they feel they are at home.
The culture is similar and the typical Punjabi dishes are tickling
their taste buds," he said.
At the team hotel, Taj Chandigarh, the players of both the teams are
relishing the traditional Punjabi cuisine, including the tandoors
and the tikkas, but the chef has been asked to ensure that all
dishes are of low calorie value.
"The food has been excellent. I have told my boys that they can
enjoy all the delicacies but keeping in mind the calories. It is
tempting, but we are controlling it as much as possible," Intikhab
Intikhab hoped that Wednesday's clash between the two teams would
add a new dimension to the friendship between the two teams.
"I hope things get normal again. Pakistan have gone through one of
their worst phases in its cricket history. I would request all not
to hype this match as a war. It is a simple game of cricket between
two good teams and I would like all to enjoy the match like that
only," he said.
Pakistan has never beaten India in the World Cup. But while playing
in front of a strong 33,000-partisan crowd, Pakistan can draw
inspiration from its last encounter against India when it chased
down a huge target of 322 runs here with one ball to spare in 2007.
(Abhishek Roy can be
contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)