Babar Azam sees marquee game as a chance to break India jinx

Babar Azam & Iftikhar Ahmed
Pakistan captain Babar Azam, left, and teammate Iftikhar Ahmed inspect the pitch. Photo: AFP/Punit Paranjpe

Pakistan would be forgiven for feeling like gladiators thrown into the Colosseum when they face an India team egged on by 100,000-plus fans in Saturday's World Cup blockbuster, but skipper Babar Azam sees the match as a chance to end a jinx against their arch-rivals.Two-time champions India have a perfect 7-0 record against Pakistan in the 50-overs World Cup and are also the top-ranked ODI team, who have won both their games in the tournament so far.

But Pakistan have also won their opening two matches, and Babar is approaching the tournament's most-anticipated clash at the Narendra Modi Stadium, the world's largest cricket venue, with a complete disregard for the past.

"I don't think about the past, I'd rather focus on future," Babar told reporters with a wry smile on his face.

"All records are meant to be broken, and we'll try to break this record tomorrow.

"It boils down to how you perform on the day of the match. We have done pretty well in the first two matches, and I have full belief we'll do well in the next match as well."

Part of how they perform will depend on how his teammates manage to deal with the pressure of the game's fiercest rivalry played out in the den of their cricketing foes.

Babar said his message to his team mates was to see it as an opportunity to perform well and etch their names into the memories of those watching back home.

"India-Pakistan match is a big game, a high-intensity contest. I've told my boys it's a great opportunity - give your best, execute your plans and believe in yourself," he said.

"It's a massive stadium, and there would be big crowd. This is a golden opportunity for us to perform in front of such a big crowd."

Pakistan's fortunes could depend on pace spearhead Shaheen Afridi, who has troubled India's top order in recent encounters between the rivals.

His workload has increased after his new-ball partner Naseem Shah was ruled out of the tournament with a shoulder injury but Babar has faith in Afridi.

"He's our best bowler, a champion bowler," Babar said of the left-arm quick.

"I believe he's a big-match bowler, who always gives his best on big occasions.

"For us, it does not matter if he does not get wickets in a match or two, it does not put a question mark against him."

With this year's tournament producing several high-scoring contests, Babar said he had reminded the bowlers of the need to be accurate.

"We are seeing mostly high-scoring matches and there's little margin for error for the bowlers. If you are straying from the stumps line, the margin is less.

"I just told my bowlers to hit the right length and bowl stump-to-stump."

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