Pakistan’s players have the chance to be “remembered forever” by becoming the first from that country to beat India in a Cricket World Cup fixture.
That is the message from Mickey Arthur, the Pakistan coach, who is imploring his players to make themselves heroes when they face their neighbours in the most-anticipated fixture of the competition so far, at Old Trafford on Sunday.
“I don’t want to say it’s the biggest rivalry in sport, but I saw some stats which said the soccer World Cup final attracted 1.6 billion viewers,” Arthur said. “Tomorrow is likely to get 1.5 billion. It doesn’t get bigger than that.
“It doesn’t get more exciting. I’m telling our players in the dressing room, you could be a hero tomorrow.
Fixtures between India and Pakistan used to be frequent, not least in the UAE.
Pakistan have a winning record in one-day international cricket against their great rivals, having won 73 to the 54 of India throughout history. They have not won any of their six meetings in World Cups, though.
These fixtures are precious these days, given their rarity. The sides have met just four times since the last World Cup – and all in multi-nation tournaments.
India have won three, and each by a substantial margin – 124 runs at Edgbaston in the 2017 Champions Trophy, as well as eight then nine wickets at last year’s Asia Cup in Dubai.
But Pakistan did win the one that mattered most, in the Champions Trophy final at The Oval two years ago.
Fakhar Zaman wrote his name in Pakistan cricket lore that day by scoring the century that set up the title win, and Arthur says the stage is open for players to do the same again this time around.
“Our kind of mantra is, ‘How do you want to be remembered?’,” Arthur said.
“We’ve got 15 incredible cricketers in that dressing room, and we keep stressing to them, ‘How do you want to be remembered? You’re the class of 2019. What are they going to say about you in history?’
“It presents an unbelievable opportunity for these guys to really make a mark.”
The fevered anticipation ahead of the match might be offset somewhat by the weather in Manchester.
The outfield was covered in puddles for much of Saturday, while weather.com is forecasting a 70 per cent chance of rain during the match hours on Sunday, with a top temperature of 18 degrees.
It feels like the weather can be predicted with a greater degree of certainty than the form of Pakistan – much to the chagrin of their coach.