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India vs Pakistan: National Mohaliday

The night before the all important semifinal,Sachin is called in to do the talking.

Written by G.S. Vivek | Mohali |
March 30, 2011 12:41:13 am

As the excitement in two countries reached fever pitch and the tension rose to near-paralysing levels,Team India turned for motivation to the man who has never seen defeat in a World Cup game against Pakistan for close to two decades now.

On the eve of the semifinal in Mohali,India’s mental conditioning coach Paddy Upton took the back seat,and the task of delivering the team talk fell on Sachin Tendulkar.

The veteran of six World Cups — during which India have got the better of Pakistan in four games — probably sensed it would be counterproductive to dwell for too long on the obvious significance of the match ahead.

Sources close to the team said Tendulkar’s talk was short but very effective. He essentially asked the boys to be calm and to stick to their natural game.

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“He went back to the 2003 group game at Centurion. He spoke about how he had refused to fall into the short ball trap that the Pakistani quicks Wasim Akram,Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar had laid for him,and instead played his natural game,” said a source. Tendulkar smashed 98 off 75 balls as India chased down Pakistan’s 273 with six wickets and over four overs to spare.

The gist of Tendulkar’s message was that the team must not allow Pakistan to dictate terms — either through mind games or through on-field strategy,the source said. Neither the opposition or the occasion,Tendulkar said,should be reason for any player or the team to change their tried-and-tested game.

On the Pakistan side,coach Waqar,captain Shahid Afridi,vice-captain Misbah-ul Haq and veteran batsman Younis Khan have been talking to younger teammates.

“Dekhiye,hamaari qaum bahut jazbaati hai. Main bahut emotional baatein kartaa hun boys ke saath. (We are a very emotional people. I talk to the boys very emotionally),” said Afridi. “Young boys in our team need to be told what they have to do.”

Afridi said the team coaches were doing a good job to motivate the players. “The senior players are also pitching in,” he said.

Misbah and Younis have been stressing how a win over India can make the younger players heroes back home and change their fortunes forever.

The anxiety in the two camps was hard to miss. Virender Sehwag walked out of the dressing room with his iPod plugs in his ears and a song on his lips. But once inside the team bus,he,like the rest of the team,fussed over which seat to occupy. Ahead of the big game,superstition was king.

Pakistan coach Waqar gave his team the day off — not because he feared injuries at practice,but because he has believed from the time he was Pakistan captain that resting before a big game brings luck.

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