Anx­ious night for In­dia stars

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NRL -

HARBHAJAN Singh has warned In­dia’s stars to ex­pect a sleep­less night ahead of their World Cup show­down with arch ri­vals Pak­istan.

In­dia leg­end Harbhajan 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 neigh­bours clash on the cricket pitch.

Tonight’s meet­ing comes with the stakes even higher than usual in the World Cup at Old Traf­ford this week­end and Harbhajan 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 semi-fi­nals on home soil in Chandi­garh. It was such a crit­i­cal fix­ture that Harbhajan lay awake for hours toss­ing and turn­ing in bed the night be­fore the game as he vi­su­alised 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,” Harbhajan 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, Harbhajan took two wick­ets as In­dia beat Pak­istan by 29 runs, with his side go­ing on to win the World Cup for the sec­ond time.

“When we won the game I couldn’t sleep the next day ei­ther be­cause I was too ex­cited and too happy,” he said.

That’s what the Pak­istan game does to you.”

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