Pakistan trying their best to avoid playing in India

By Omar Khalid, IANS,

Colombo : In their bid to avoid intimidating Indian crowds in Ahmedabad and Mohali, venues of the quarterfinal and semi-final matches, Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi appealed to his team mates to give their best so that they top Group A and play their knock-out World Cup matches in Sri Lanka.

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Pakistan, champions in 1992, have made a good start in the tournament with two comprehensive wins against Kenya and tournament favourites Sri Lanka.

Afridi wants his team to carry on their winning run as it will give them the much-needed confidence for the knock-out rounds. He also knows that it is also important for them to avoid playing in India before the final in Mumbai.

“I want to play in India, but not before the final,” he said. “The biggest reward for us if we topped our group is that we will get to play our quarterfinals here or in Dhaka. It is good for us either way. I want to play our quarterfinal in Sri Lanka or Bangladesh because we are completely used to the conditions and in neutral games we would even get the crowd support. But in India it is going to be a different story.”

Afridi, who turned 31st here Tuesday, said that in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, Pakistan will have the ‘home advantage’ as they won’t be pitted against the home team.

Afridi said his boys were working really hard to give their best in the tournament.

“The players are training with a lot of intensity,” he said. “It’s very important for us that we do well in the World Cup and win it for our country.”

Pakistan lost to India in the quarterfinal of the 1996 World Cup which was played in a highly charged atmosphere in Bangalore.

Pakistan last toured India in 2007-08, before bilateral relations touched an all time low after the 26/11 attack on Mumbai by Pakistani terrorists.

Extremist groups in India have even threatened to disrupt World Cup matches involving Pakistan.

Pakistan were slated to play all their matches at home, but after they were stripped of their status as co-hosts, the International Cricket Council (ICC) assigned their group matches to Sri Lanka to avoid any possible backlash in India.