BIRMINGHAM: Pakistan captain Misbah-ul Haq said on Friday that he regarded the Champions Trophy clash against arch-rivals India as a “final”, even though his team has crashed out of the race to be in the last four.
The last group B match at Edgbaston, which was billed as the showpiece game of the eight-nation event, holds only academic interest since India are already through to the last four and Pakistan have no chance of qualifying.
But Misbah said his team wanted to sign off on a winning note, hoping to lessen the blow for disappointed fans with a face-saving win over Pakistan’s south Asian neighbours and bitter rivals.
“Whenever we play each other it’s like a final for everybody,” Misbah told reporters after his team’s training session at the ground in Birmingham, central England.
“It’s still a very important game even though we may be out of the tournament. India and Pakistan have more followers of cricket than any other team and they all like to see us play each other.”
Birmingham is one of Britain’s most ethnically diverse cities with people of Pakistani origin making up the biggest group — ensuring vocal support for Misbah’s men.
According to the 2011 Census, 13.5 percent of the city or nearly 145,000 people classed themselves as of Pakistani origin compared with nearly 65,000 of Indian origin (6.0 percent).
Pakistan were let down by poor batting in the two games, having been bowled out for 170 by the West Indies and then dismissed for 167 by a depleted South African attack missing frontline strike bowlers Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.
But Misbah, who top-scored in both matches, said he expected his team to rise to its potential against India since the pressure was off.
“It’s just one more game for us, there is no pressure on us now,” he said. “It gives us a chance to prove ourselves on the field, express ourselves freely and win back our pride.”
Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s World Cup champions showed awesome batting form against South Africa and the West Indies, but Misbah said Pakistan’s 2-1 one-day series win in India in December-January will give his side confidence.
“We have the bowlers to contain India,” he said. “They bowled so effectively in that series in India and will be confident of doing that again. India have played well in this tournament, so beating them will be very satisfying.”
Dhoni agreed with Misbah that Saturday’s game was important, but insisted that was not only because the opponents were Pakistan.
“It does not matter which side you are playing because all international sides are good, so there is no point taking any added pressure,” he said.
“The India-Pakistan game is always a big game. Both sides are more mellowed now than was the case in the 1980s and 1990s, and that is good for cricket. But the intensity is the same and that makes it very entertaining for spectators.”
Dhoni expected Pakistan to play a hard game on Saturday, but said the result could depend on how the rivals approached the game.
“If their thinking is they have nothing to lose, go out and be expressive on the field and don’t bother about the result, they could be dangerous,” he said.
“But if the thinking is that the game against India must be won as a consolation prize just because they have not qualified for the semi-finals, they will be in big trouble.” (AFP)