Centurion: Pakistan team manager Shaharyar Khan has warned spectators to keep their emotions under control during Saturday's highly-charged World Cup clash between his side and India.
The match, the first between the two rivals since June 2000, is being played against a background of mounting political tension over the disputed territory of Kashmir. But Khan, a former diplomat, insisted on Friday that fans of both sides should leave the politics at the turnstiles and remember that they are watching a sporting event.
"It's not war," Khan said. "It's just a vintage cricket match between two top teams and one team has to win so I advise people on both sides to treat it as sport and not as a political issue. "It is a sporting event and not a political issue - it has nothing to do with Kashmir and missile testing." The fact that Pakistan need to beat India to stay in the hunt for the Super Sixes has added extra spice to an already highly-charged encounter.
"I know it is a high voltage game as everyone is saying but I am sure that despite the hype, both teams will exhibit true sportsmanship and prove to be ambassadors of the game as well as their countries," said 68-year-old Khan, who was born in Bhopal in India before migrating to Pakistan. Khan described Indian sports minister Vikram Verma's views that the World Cup match will not lead to a revival of cricket ties between Pakistan and India, as "disappointing."
"I am disappointed at his remarks and am always of the opinion that sports and politics should not be intertwined. Let the public sentiment be the judge and prove that cricket should go on." Khan managed Pakistan team's last tour to India in 1998-99 despite threats of disruption from Hindu fundamentalists. "We had a wonderful tour of India and despite the tension, we were treated like heroes everywhere." No Indian team has toured Pakistan since 1989-90 after the Indian government banned bilateral ties in protest at Islamabad's alleged support to militancy in Kashmir. Khan sees little chance of revival of cricket between the two countries. "I feel at the moment the climate is not viable.
If India leaves it to its cricket board and its people, the ties can be revived soon." Veteran Pakistan bowler Wasim Akram agreed Saturday's match should not be treated as war. "It's surely not a war. The players all have a good relationship and when we go out it's just a game of cricket," said Wasim, who led Pakistan on the tour of India three years ago. "The tension is just because we don't play each other more often and once matches are revived the tension will be less," he said. "It was the same hype before our match in the 1999 World Cup and I hope all ends well." Copyright AFP 2001