M A I N   N E W S

Get beyond the fear factor

The occasion is piled high with difficulty and you have to rise to the occasion. The biggest deterrent to the top will be the weight of expectancy. Everyone, from a bellboy to the man in Parliament has one thing to say - you can lose to anyone but not to Pakistan! This is the match, they say, winning this is like a dip in the Ganges.

The expectancy and tension are in the air, I can smell it. And it will mount with the minute. Defeat is not bitter if you can swallow it, but this is one defeat no one is prepared to swallow.

Let me take you back to 1996, when we beat Pakistan in the World Cup quarter-finals in Bangalore. After the match, I suddenly got a frantic call from my wife, in the middle of the night. “Our house is being attacked!” she said in panic. So I called the local police official, who laughed and told me that thousands were out in the streets and celebrating. They had forced open sweetmeat shops and were distributing sweets. These thousand had made their way to my home and were celebrating outside with chants of “zindabad!” Since my wife was asleep, she had misunderstood.

My sister tells me how they went to India Gate in New Delhi, where people were tossing thousands of rupees at the ice-cream vendors, ordering them to give away their wares to those around. It was a national celebration, a moment to cherish. The only match that counts had been won!

The euphoria didn’t stop there. The entire night, the phone kept ringing and VIPs ranging from the Prime Minister to the State Chief Minister kept calling to offer their congratulations. Imran Khan’s car took four hours to get to his hotel from mine, and the vehicle had a multitude of dents - people had jammed the streets of Bangalore and were dancing there, as well as on the car!

Now look at the flip side. The Pakistan team’s plane was not allowed to land in Lahore the next morning, so it had to head for an unknown destination. Wasim Akram had missed the match due to injury and his house was stoned. He could not land in Pakistan and had to head for England.

This is a match of heroes and zeroes. If you win, you are a superhero. If you lose, you are nothing, a zero with nothing before or after it.

This is the expectancy that translates into fear. Fear multiplies faster than rabbits. Fear is the dark room where negatives are developed. Fear makes you forget your natural, instinctive game. The want of the moment is to lock all of this out of your mind. You cannot net the enormity of expectations to dwarf you. The side that overcomes fear; that soaks in the hostility like a sponge, will succeed. Soft heads will do more damage now than soft muscles.

As for the pitch, it has to be a belter if India is to get an advantage. A greentop or the turning track will give teeth to Pakistan, the best bowling attack in this World Cup. If Umar Gul gets through, India will reel. If India can scuttle Gul, they will flourish. The choice is simple - stand up and be counted or lie down and be counted out. The battle will be won or lost in the mind. The match will be played between the ears ass much as between the hands.

Stand in front of the mirror and say, this is it. This is your dip in the Ganges, a chance to wash away all your sins.





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