Mohali, March 28 : : Pakistan team manager Intikhab Alam knows Mohali and Chandigarh better than any player on his team. Says Intikhab: "Please let it remain as a cricket match and don't make us feel like we are standing on a battlefield. Both teams cannot win and somebody has to lose. So let us enjoy the contest."
To a query whether he was a lucky mascot for Pakistan, having been the coach of the Pakistan team when they emerged World Cup champions in 1992 and in the 2009 Twenty20 triumph, and whether he would be third time lucky, Alam said: "I hope it happens for a third time. Let us clear the India hurdle first before thinking about that."
What is his advice to his players for this crucial match? "Go out, enjoy the contest and give your best."
Even the Punjab state team players know him very well. Alam was the coach of the Punjab state team for two years in 2004 and 2005, and they performed brilliantly during his term.
So, when Alam arrived at the Mohali stadium, there were many waiting to meet him. The Punjab Cricket Association president I.S. Bindra received him with a big hug. In the backdrop could be seen a portrait of him during his playing days hanging on the wall.
Alam coached Yuvraj Singh, the hero of India's victorious run in this World Cup."Yuvi [Yuvraj Singh] played a few matches under me and I could see a lot of potential in him. I have always said Yuvi needs more discipline in his batting and he has achieved it in this World Cup," said Alam, who was born in Hoshiarpur, which is near Mohali.
Intikhab feels winning the World Cup could usher in a new era in his country's cricket. Intikhab said Pakistan cricket had gone through one of its worst phases in the last couple of years and now they are looking ahead to restoring their pride and glory.
The Lahore terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009 left them ostracized by the international cricket community and they were also dropped as co-hosts of the World Cup. Last year's spot-fixing scandal during the England tour involving three cricketers - Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer - did not help matters either. The trio were then banned for 10, seven and five years respectively.
'It is no time to look back, though we can take inspiration from the good deeds of the past. We have gone through one of the worst periods in Pakistan's cricket history and we are trying to erase the dark chapter,' Intikhab told a news agency from Mohali.
'The team is focussed on winning the World Cup and it will be the start of a new era in Pakistani cricket,' said Intikhab, who was the coach-cum-manager of the 1992 World Cup winning Pakistan team. He was also the manager of the team that won the World Twenty20 in 2009.
Intikhab, however, was happy that there are three sub-continental teams -India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka - in the semifinals.
'It is a great moment for Asian cricket. Before the World Cup there was a lot of talk about Australia, England and South Africa making the semi-finals, but the sub-continental teams have proved it wrong. I always believed that Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka would make the semifinals and will be happy to see an Asian team winning the World Cup,' said the former Pakistan captain.
Intikhab reiterated his unhappiness with the media hype surrounding the Wednesday's India-Pakistan semifinal and pleaded not to make it look like a war.
'This is just a simple game of cricket, we have to treat it like that, not war. There will be lot of emotions, but we must control them and stay calm,' said Intikhab.
Intikhab, who fondly remembers the two years he spent here from 2004-06 coaching the Punjab Ranji Trophy squad, wants people to remember that only one team can win and the other team will have to accept defeat gracefully.
The 69-year-old Hoshiarpur-born said less media hype will help both the teams prepare better and in less tension for the crucial tie.
'It is an important match for both the teams and we must allow them to prepare in proper cricket atmosphere. It is my request to all not to put needless pressure on the players,' he said.