Harbhajjan warns India stars to expect sleepless night as Pakistan loom

Arch rivals India and Pakistan to clash on Sunday June 16, 2019 - AFP
Updated 15 June 2019

Harbhajjan warns India stars to expect sleepless night as Pakistan loom

  • Perennial political rivals India and Pakistan will face off in Manchester on Sunday
  • Match will be one of World Cup’s most hotly-anticipated and massively-watched games

LONDON: Harbhajjan Singh has warned India’s stars to expect a sleepless night ahead of their World Cup showdown with arch rivals Pakistan on Sunday.
India legend Harbhajjan knows from bitter experience just how stressful it is to take part in one of the most fierce rivalries in world sport.
The tense political situation between India and Pakistan lends an extra level of animosity whenever the feuding neighbors clash on the cricket pitch.
Their latest meeting comes with the stakes even higher than usual in the World Cup at Old Trafford this weekend and Harbhajjan is well aware just how high emotions will be running on the pitch and in the stands.
The 38-year-old spinner played 17 times against Pakistan in a 236-match ODI career for India, including arguably their biggest ever match in the 2011 World Cup semifinals on home soil in Chandigarh.
It was such a critical fixture that Harbhajjan lay awake for hours tossing and turning in bed the night before the game as he visualized the furious response from the Indian public if they lost.
“The memories of that game was I couldn’t sleep the night before, even though I tried my best,” Harbhajjan said.
“I was just worried about what would happen if we lost the game. There were a lot of thoughts coming into my mind.
“People get angry and they can do anything. In the 2003 World Cup we didn’t play one game as well as we should have against Australia and people got really angry.
“They were just burning our stuff and throwing stones at our homes. They get a bit emotional.”
Despite his sleep-deprived preparation, Harbhajjan took two wickets as India beat Pakistan by 29 runs, with his side going on to win the World Cup for the second time.
Even with a disastrous defeat averted, the adrenaline of victory kept Harbhajjan from sleeping the night after the match as well.
“When we won the game I couldn’t sleep the next day either because I was too excited and too happy. That’s what the Pakistan game does to you,” he said.
“Obviously it’s one of those games when the pressure is a little more than when you play against England or New Zealand.
“People in both countries want their respective teams to win and if you end up losing the game the people really get up upset and they go on to lose their minds, which is obviously quite bad.”
Although they were crushed by Pakistan in the 2017 Champions Trophy final, India have never lost to them at a World Cup, winning at the last two tournaments, and are favorites to extend that run when the rivalry resumes in Manchester.
However, Harbhajjan acknowledges India’s status brings its own burdens, raising expectations among their passionate fanbase of another win over the old enemy.
“As a player you always want to play well against Pakistan, so there is more pressure. It’s not just for Indian players but for Pakistani players as well,” he said.
“But there is more pressure on the Indian players because we have a very good record in these games and we don’t want to change that.”

Pakistan ‘wants to play its role’ for peace in Middle East – FO

Updated 12 January 2020

Pakistan ‘wants to play its role’ for peace in Middle East – FO

  • Work on foreign minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United States being done
  • Pakistan’s strong relations with regional countries has made it an important player

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated on Thursday that the country was going to play its role in restoring peace in the Middle East by working with other international stakeholders in the region.

“Pakistan welcomes de-escalation and wants to play its role in ensuring peace and stability in the region. We have seen that indication in United States President [Donald] Trump’s speech and are evaluating its contours,” the country’s foreign office spokesperson, Aisha Farooqui, said in her weekly media briefing in Islamabad on Thursday.

She said that Pakistan’s geographical position, along with its strong relations with regional countries and the United States, had made it a significant player in the Middle East.

“Pakistan has maintained that war is not the solution to any issue and made it clear that it will not become part of any regional conflict,” she said.

The spokesperson noted that Islamabad had enhanced its efforts to defuse tensions in the region and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had contacted his counterparts in Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and many other important states in this connection.

“All the international players, including Saudi Arabia, have said that the region cannot afford another war and asked for restraint from both parties [the US and Iran]. It’s a collective objective of all countries to ensure peace and stability in the Middle East,” she said.

Commenting on the foreign minister’s upcoming visit to Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the US, she said that “work on these tours has already started and they will take place as soon as dates are finalized with the respective countries.”

“We are very mindful for our brotherly and friendly relations with Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other regional countries. Pakistan and the US also enjoy longstanding relations and have contacts with each other through multiple forums including political and military leadership,” Farooqui said, adding that the foreign office had established a task force to continuously monitor the situation in the Middle East and inform the government about it along with its suggestions on a daily basis.

The spokesperson expressed hope that recent developments in the Middle East would not affect the ongoing Afghan peace process.

“Pakistan hopes that progress made on Afghan peace process will not come to a halt and the world community will not lose its focus as a result of the ongoing tensions in the Middle East,” she said.

Asked about the safety of Pakistani nationals in Iraq, she said the country’s embassy in Baghdad was on the alert to deal with any emergency situation.

“We are concerned about the safety of Pakistani citizens in Iraq and have issued an advisory in this regard. We have also instructed our mission in Baghdad to remain vigilant to deal with any emergency,” Farooqui said.