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'It will be a battle of 22 minds'

There will be enormous pressure on both the teams, says Mushtaq Ahmed.
By Samiul Hasan (PTI) | PTI, Karachi
UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2005 12:41 PM IST

The enormous pressure on players of both the teams meant that the forthcoming cricket series between India and Pakistan would be won in the minds rather than in the field, according to former leg spinner Mushtaq Ahmed.

"The series is between the arch-rivals, don't forget that. No matter how much you try to play it down, there will be plenty of pressure on both the teams. The team that will succeed in handling that pressure will emerge winner," Mushtaq said in an interview on Friday.

"It will be a battle of 22 minds. Lets see who wins in psychological warfare because as far as I understand, talent aside, there will be enormous pressure on both the teams as they will be carrying the hopes of billions of their supporters.

"Besides, both the teams will be fully aware what a series loss would do their personal lives. I have been a member of the Pakistan cricket team that faced a strong public reaction after we returned as a beaten team from Bangalore in 1996," Mushtaq recalled.

Mushtaq said he did not expect the same hostile public reaction as in 1996 when their houses were stoned and abuses were hurled after the Bangalore defeat because the recent people-to-people contact have improved relations.

"A good performance enhances your image but a poor performance means the end of the road for you as a cricketer. And that's something that certainly scares the hell out of you. Frankly speaking, who would like to be dropped so early in their careers, said Mushtaq, who took 185 Tests and 161 one-day wickets.

Mushtaq said he was confident that Pakistan, without the services of Shoaib Akhtar, will surprise the pundits of the game. Together, Pakistan players share 316 Test matches between them with Inzamam-ul-Haq having played 97 and Yousuf Youhana 56. The average age of the team is 26.5.

"Statistics are at times deceptive and misleading. I have been encouraged by what I saw in Australia. The way the Pakistan players fought back after being thrashed in the Test series, it was incredible. Pakistan, in the 1990s, had the capability of fighting their way back from the dead.

Mushtaq said another factor that was in the favour of the Pakistanis was that they had been playing pressure cricket before the series while the Indians were searching for tough match practice as they had long break.

"India did well last year (in Pakistan) because they had come after a tough tour of Australia. Now India are confined to domestic cricket which is definitely less pressure.

"On the contrary, Pakistan are on a roll and no matter they lost (Tests) in Australia, they played good amount of cricket against quality teams which will be crucial in India," he added.

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