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MS Dhoni’s influence on India and Kohli has been huge: Asif

In the run-up to the India-Pakistan match, former Pakistan captain Asif Iqbal is not willing to put his money on any one team

By Indranil Majumdar in London
  • Published 11.06.19, 4:35 AM
  • Updated 11.06.19, 2:43 PM
  • 2 mins read
Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni leave the field after standing for national anthem before the start of the World Cup match between Australia and India at The Oval in London. AP

There are still a few days to go before the ‘big clash’ at Old Trafford on Sunday. Both India and Pakistan have a match left before their much-anticipated World Cup meeting, but the fervour surrounding the match has already started to grow.

Former Pakistan captain Asif Iqbal is not willing to put his money on any one team. India have an all-win record against their arch-rivals in the World Cup, but Pakistan beat India in the Champions Trophy final at The Oval two years ago.

“The World Cup record is history. No doubt India will carry a lot of confidence into the Manchester clash, but Pakistan will also not be lacking in belief and drawing inspiration from their Champions Trophy triumph,” the Kent-based Asif told The Telegraph on Monday.

“Both teams will enjoy the psychological edge… Two things will decide the contest. The conditions at Old Trafford and the luck factor… It will include the toss and the decisions taken by the captains. Whoever handles pressure better will prevail,” said the 76-year-old.

Asif, who travels to London almost everyday because of professional commitments, hasn’t found time to be present at any of the stadiums but plans to watch Pakistan’s matches at Lord’s — versus South Africa and Bangladesh.

“Pakistan have to improve their consistency. You cannot be brilliant on some days and bad on other days,” said Asif.

He though praised Sarfaraz Ahmed’s captaincy. “Sarfaraz has been doing well. I always believe that the captain doesn’t make a team and the team is as good as the players. The team, in fact, makes the captain. Sarfaraz has been leading from the front and playing his best cricket.”

Virat Kohli’s leadership and Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s calming influence also drew applause. “India have been brilliant. They have come a long way since their 2011 World Cup triumph.

“Kohli’s bating and aggressive captaincy has been the hallmark of their success. Equally important has been Dhoni’s influence, which has been huge on the team and Kohli.”

He though didn’t wish to pick Pakistan as one of his preferred teams for the semi-finals.

“There are no favourites. Any team can prevail on their day. I don’t wish to make a prediction but feel that England, India, Australia and New Zealand can make the semi-finals.

“I would love to see Pakistan in that list but my choice has been driven by logic as a former cricketer and not by emotions. It has been entirely based on the rankings and performance.”

Asif wants Pakistan to be consistent. They have a match against Australia coming up before the Old Trafford clash against India.

“It’s been going according to the script. Pakistan are living up to the tag of being unpredictable. Like in Champions Trophy, they are playing well after losing the first match of the tournament. This is nothing new.

“Previously too, they have taken time to hit top gear in big tournaments. I wouldn’t blame them though. It’s the nature of limited-overs cricket. The team that plays well will win on the given day. The West Indies outplayed them but against England they held on despite the hosts making a strong comeback.

“The Pakistan-Australia match will be important for the Australians too. They have lost to India and will be under pressure. In ODIs, it’s not that the favourites always win. Bangladesh have proved that.

“Pakistan lacks consistency. That is proving to be their bane. They have the talent but the only thing is that they have to perform consistently.

“Mohammed Aamir is proving to be good along with Shadab Khan. Wahab Riaz is slowly finding his rhythm and pace. Hopefully, they will do better.”