It was the day of the dark horses — with one star act in Younis Khan — to oblige a prowling Indian media on the lookout for a big quote on Saturday.
This seemed a new Pakistan, a bunch not prepared to wash dirty linen in public and it made for interesting viewing. Especially how the likes of Sohail Tanvir, Rao Iftikhar, Misbah-ul-Haq, Salman Butt and Abdur Rehman handled the media with laughter and élan. The conviviality of the whole thing surely did not give the impression that the archrivals were just a couple of days away from a high-pressure opener in Guwahati. Questions came in torrents and, without even a hint of irritation, the players fielded them like seasoned pros, even if they contradicted each other occasionally.
"Pressure? What pressure," asked Misbah, smiling. "We have played here before and enjoy the atmosphere, so why should it be <b1>different this time around?" On whether it was a revenge series for Pakistan after their T20 final loss, Misbah, whose final thwack that might have cost Pakistan the Cup, remarked: "There is no revenge sort of thing in our minds…we would like to go out and win every match. Losing is part of the game… I fought from a point where it was a no-win situation for Pakistan. It's plain luck. I panicked towards the end. But now I would try to rectify those mistakes, not to panic in pressure situations like I did in the T20 final."
Younis agreed. "It certainly does not mean I will go out with a sword in my hand and fight. After all it is a game… but we would be happy to finish on a winning note, as that would put to rest all criticism as to why and how we lost the T20 final. If we win, it would be even-steven."
Calm down, Malik
But Younis had an interesting observation, saying that to do well, skipper Shoaib Malik should enjoy his job. "Because only then would he be able to deal with the pressures that come with leading a side." He then, quietly, threw down the gauntlet: "The pressure though, would be more on Indian captain MS Dhoni."
Younis, who declined to lead Pakistan after the World Cup, said he just wanted to enjoy the game and not get bogged down by pressure. "When it comes to India-Pakistan matches, the pressure is intense. It's (the captaincy) a high-pressure job."
A childhood dream
Sohail Tanvir, on his first visit to the sub-continent, said he was taking it as a journey to "see and understand the culture of the country". "The T20 performance has done a lot of good to me. Since childhood, I've always wanted to come and play in India."
<b2>But when pointedly asked about the pitches, which offer little assistance to bowlers, he said: "We have the same pitches back home…we are used to it. The bowlers do not have the option of making an error. Ghera tang karte jaa rahe hain (They are going on curtailing our freedom). Cricket has become a batsman's paradise," he said, voicing the opinion of most of his ilk from anywhere in the world.
He added that despite the Indian batsmen being technically very good, he would not go by reputations and bowl in his natural way. They all felt that while Shoaib Akhtar's presence would lift the team, Mohammed Asif's absence would be felt.
No targets here
<b3>Paceman Rao Iftikhar, on his third India tour, said it was just a normal feeling for him (travelling to India). He agreed with Tanvir that powerplays etc had made life difficult, especially for first-change bowlers.
On whether Pakistan had come with separate strategies for batsmen, he said ODIs were all about containment. "Our only plan is to contain batsmen…we will not target or have a game plan for any batsman." He also shrugged off suggestions that Pakistan were losing too many high-voltage matches. "We always work hard but the results are not in our hands."