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C’mon India!

India take on Sri Lanka in what everyone knows is a do-or-die game, but only as far as India's Cup campaign goes, nothing else, feels Kaif.
None | By HT Correspondent
UPDATED ON MAR 23, 2007 03:27 AM IST

But remember, it’s just a game

Tonight is the night of the big face-off. India take on Sri Lanka in what everyone knows is a do-or-die game, but only as far as India's Cup campaign goes, nothing else.

As I write this, my thoughts are with my friends and colleagues in the Caribbean. I know what it feels like to be in this situation, on a stage as big as this. The final nets session will be more serious than usual, and somewhat subdued. The seniors and the coach will discuss strategy through the day, and everyone else will try and fill the rest of the hours by doing whatever they can do. There will be early dinners, some will hardly sleep, some will have fitful dreams.

There will be a fair amount of jitteriness, some nervous laughter, and some silly jokes. Everyone will be telling everyone else to relax and not think about the media or what people back home are saying or doing-nevertheless, everyone will be thinking about it and wondering, 'what if?'

In pressure terms, there is nothing like being an Indian cricketer. For while we receive overwhelming love and support from our fans and are deeply thankful for it, this obsessive following also has a fanatical edge that can be chilling.

I will not forget the chaotic thoughts in my head when news of the vandalising of my Allahabad home reached me when things weren't going well for us during the last World Cup in South Africa. I feared for my family, and was angry at what I thought was an unconscionable act by hooligans-for I cannot believe that the true cricket fan is heartless. I also thought, 'Why me, why us? It's just a game, isn't it?'

Yet, each of us who wears the India cap also realises it's not just a game for many. Through the years, I've realised that for many Indians, cricket brings hope and joy, gives a sense of solidarity and identity. Believe me, whenever we go out there, we give our best-for ourselves and for India. But unfortunately, it is sport, and in sport, you have both dizzying highs and downward spirals. And you deal with it.

It is certainly not a life and death situation-not for any of us who play, and not for any of you who watch.

Today won't be easy. Sri Lanka are a damn good team. But I know my mates-on their day, they're as good as anyone else, often better. They'll be under tremendous pressure but they will do their best. Just remember that. And like me, enjoy what will be a great contest.

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