'2011 World Cup semi vs Pakistan was a ‘non-negotiable match'. Wouldn't have been ideal to let them win and stay at Taj'
- India's mental conditioning coach of that time Paddy Upton described it as "non-negotiable" game for India. Upton, who was also considered to be close to then head coach Gary Kirsten, said there was an "additional political pressure" surrounding that match which everybody was aware of.
An India-Pakistan match is always considered to be a high-pressure contest. The pressure and stakes are higher when it's a World Cup knockout. Only thrice have India and Pakistan met in a World Cup knockout - 1996 quarter-final, 2007 T20 World Cup final and 2011 World Cup semi-final - with India emerging victorious in all three occasions. The semi-final of 2011 World Cup against Pakistan in Mohali, was however, a different ballgame altogether. India's mental conditioning coach of that time Paddy Upton described it as a "non-negotiable" game for India. Upton, who was also considered to be close to then head coach Gary Kirsten, said there was an "additional political pressure" surrounding that match which everybody was aware of.
“There was an additional extraneous political pressure that nobody spoke about but everybody was acutely aware of: if India lost, Pakistan would go to Mumbai and stay at the very same Taj Hotel that was a target of the terrorist attacks. Each one of us knew the symbolism of that without having to say it. That was not really ideal to allow Pakistan to win and go to stay at Taj; it didn’t stack up on an energetic level. So, there was that additional pressure that this was to be a non-negotiable game to lose,” Upton wrote in a column for Indian Express on the 11th anniversary of India's World Cup triumph.
“The fierce Indo-Pak rivalry is more about spectators; players themselves don’t have that fierceness and animosity. They know each other fairly well and get along well. Pakistan was always a very easy game for which to prepare the Indian team for as they didn’t need any extra motivation,” he added.
The legendary Sachin Tendulkar was the star of the show for India as he his 85-run knock had taken India to 260 while batting first. In reply, five of India's bowlers took two wickets apiece to bundle Pakistan out for 231 and march towards the final, in which they would go to beat Sri Lanka to lift their second World Cup title after 28 years.
“Sachin had played five World Cups. Not just immensely experienced, he was heads and shoulders above the team in terms of his accomplishments, but he was a team player. He didn’t overly speak too much in team meetings but when something needed to be said, he would say it – and when he did, which wasn’t very often, it had gravitas and players would listen. It was his last World Cup and players knew the only thing he didn’t have in his trophy cabinet was a World Cup. I know lot of players had committed to saying they want to win and gift him the World Cup. He knew that he had that support. Sachin wasn’t waiting for other players to gift him that Cup; he knew his time was going to come to do his part in bringing it home. We saw that in the innings he played,” Upton wrote.