The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cricket ties will ease tension: Latif

Colombo: Pakistan captain Rashid Latif said Thursday that early resumption of bilateral India-Pakistan cricket matches could play a big role in easing tension between the two neighbours.

“Let’s give cricket a chance,” said Latif. “India and Pakistan should regularly play cricket to lessen the tension. The more we play each other, the better for both countries.”

India have not played a Test in Pakistan since 1989, while Pakistan played three in India in 1999-2000. “I feel sports, especially cricket, is the best way to normalise the relation between India and Pakistan,” said Latif.

He also felt the rival players as well as fans would be under less pressure if the two teams met regularly. “There is always pressure on cricketers in India-Pakistan games because they don’t play regularly. Fans’ expectations in both the nations are also high. “Fans should treat each contest only as a cricket match and this is possible if there are more games between the two on a regular basis.”

Latif added the two nations had a lot in common and it would really be unfortunate if they could not play cricket. “We share a lot of things, including language. Even our style of play is more or less the same,” he said.

Meanwhile the captain felt that Shoaib Akhtar is not feeling the pressure in the triangular one-day series despite being threatened with the axe.

“I don’t think he (Akhtar) is feeling any pressure in this series. Other players have taken the pressure off him,” Latif said.

Akhtar was warned by his country’s cricket chief Tauqir Zia that the tri-series would be the last chance to revive his career. He was one of the seven players dropped after Pakistan’s early exit from the World Cup before being recalled.

The fast bowler responded well in his first match of the current series, grabbing two crucial wickets for 19 runs in eight overs to set up his team’s 79-run victory over Sri Lanka. Akhtar, 27, bowled well in the second game also, against New Zealand, but failed to get a wicket.

“He has bowled impressively in both matches and proved that he is still one of the best strike bowlers in the world,” said Latif. “This tour could be the turning point of his career.” (AFP)

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