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Pressure on ‘unsettled’ India to win World Cup at home: Shoaib Akhtar | Cricket News – Times of India

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NEW DELHI: Playing at home, and with intense media scrutiny, will put the Indian cricket team under a lot of pressure in the upcoming World Cup, feels former Pakistan pace bowler Shoaib Akhtar.
Akhtar added the stage is set perfectly for Pakistan, the No. 1 ODI side, to lift the trophy and give the country something to cheer about amid the serious economic situation.
India’s performance in ICC events has left much to be desired as they have yet to win a world title since the 2013 Champions Trophy triumph under Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
“Pakistan’s going to be all lonely there (in India). Having said that, they will be under no pressure. Playing at home, in front of own crowd, all the pressure will be on India; we will do better,” Akhtar said during a virtual press conference organised by Star Sports.
“All the stadiums will be packed, and more than two billion people will be following the live action on TV or social media and what not. The Indian media will put an incredible amount of pressure on Pakistan, they will build it up like Mahabharata. They will already declare India as the winners… that’s an uncalled amount of pressure to have ahead of the game.
“(But) Rohit Sharma and India are going to face a lot of pressure because of that.”
India will take on Pakistan in the most-anticipated World Cup clash in Ahmedabad on October 14.
But before that, they will clash in the Super Four stage of the Asia Cup on Sunday, and may also head for a possible title showdown on September 17.
Akhtar said the Indian team is still “unsettled” with less than a month left for the World Cup, beginning on October 5.
“Why do I have this feeling… why India could not pick their XI in last two years. It’s a very strange thing to me that your squad is not settled. Who is your No. 4, where will Virat (Kohli) play 3, 4 or 5? Ishan Kishan looks amazing, can bat anywhere.
“Hardik Pandya is an asset. Look what he has done with Gujarat Titans (in IPL).
“But India is not being a settled squad for (the) last two years, this is a very strange thing for me. Who will occupy which slot?” he asked.
“I’m all for Rohit, Virat, but everyday you got to perform because you got a name. You have to be out there, and lead by example. But the bowling and batting both look unsettled to me.”
“Why did Indian selectors ignore Chahal?”
Akhtar also questioned the Indian selectors for ignoring Yuzvendra Chahal for the World Cup.
“Not picking Chahal is beyond me. The problem with India is that when they get out for 150-200, they will increase the batters but never the bowlers.
“What do you expect if you want to take batting till No. 8. If the top-five can’t contribute, what will (No.) 7-8 do? You are banking on (Ravindra) Jadeja? I believe that you (India) are playing with one bowler less.”
He also took a dig at Rohit and said Shaheen Afridi was playing on the Indian skipper’s mind after the Pakistani quick cleaned him up in the Asia Cup.
“Yeh Rohit Sharma woh Rohit Sharma hai hi nahi. Yeh uska stunt double hai (This is not the same Rohit Sharma. This is his stunt double),” said Akhtar.
“Shaheen has made his way into his mind. I have never seen Rohit change his stance, but what was happening there (in Sri Lanka)? He (Rohit) changed it (stance), was beaten and bowled. Shaheen is subconsciously in his mind. This is what the pressure of an India versus Pakistan match does to players,” he added.
“Stage set for Pakistan to lift the Cup, revive economy”
Akhtar said Pakistan will have the advantage as all the attention will be on the home team.
“Pakistan, on the other hand, will be all lonely with only 15 members there, sticking together. (I) will tell them to play ‘without fear’.”
Akhtar added he had an intuition that this World Cup will go to Pakistan.
“Why this World Cup is so important for us, because it will be special playing in India and winning in India. I don’t know, I may be wrong… but this stage is being set for an India-Pakistan final and particularly for Pakistan.
“I will be praying that the Pakistan team wins because we are struggling with economic reforms, and our critical financial situation. This is the only thing that can lift the nation… if we lift the World Cup in India and before that the Asia Cup,” he said.
“Pace trio reminds me of old days”
Hailing Pakistan’s three-pronged pace attack of Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf, Akhtar said it reminded him of the Wasim Akram-Waqar Younis generation.
“This pace battery reminds me of the old days, the era of two Ws. They are confident and have a similar mindset of taking wickets,” he said.
The Pakistani trio has taken 23 wickets in the first three matches of the Asia Cup. Afridi had ripped the Indian top order in their rain-interrupted clash in Pallekele on September 2.
“I would say Shaheen is on top of his career right now, while Haris Rauf has a wicket-taking mindset. I would advise Naseem to bowl more wicket-taking deliveries. He’s not the stock bowler, I’ve told the team management.”

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