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Expect sleepless nights and immense pressure before Pakistan game, warns Harbhajan
Pakistan-India Clash

Expect sleepless nights and immense pressure before Pakistan game, warns Harbhajan

Harbhajan Singh has cautioned the current Indian team under the leadership of Virat Kohli, to expect sleepless hours before the commencement of the grand showdown with arch-rivals Pakistan on Sunday.

The veteran spinner has a wealth of experience participating in one of the fiercest sporting rivalries over an international career spanning almost two decades.

The fragile political relations between the two nations adds a layer of hostility whenever they battle it out on the cricket field.

The latest clash also expectedly comes with a baggage of emotions and inflamed passions among fans and Harbhajan is cognizant of how much the off-field hype affects the players partaking in the high-intensity contest on the pitch.

Harbhajan represented India in 17 games against Pakistan and was on the winning side in perhaps their most iconic triumph in the 2011 World Cup semi-finals in Mohali.

'I couldn't sleep the night before 2011 World Cup semi-final'

Faced with the pressure of playing in front a sell-out home crowd, Harbhajan recalled staying awake late into the night ahead of the match as he imagined the harsh public outcry in case India were to lose the knockout game.

"The memories of that game was I couldn't sleep the night before, even though I tried my best," Harbhajan said.

"I was just worried about what would happen if we lost the game. There were a lot of thoughts coming into my mind.

"People get angry and they can do anything. In the 2003 World Cup we didn't play one game as well as we should have against Australia and people got really angry.

"They were just burning our stuff and throwing stones at our homes. They get a bit emotional."

The sleep-deprived Harbhajan turned up in full vigour the next day as he bagged two crucial wickets with India beating their traditional rivals by 29 runs and advancing one step closer to ultimately lifting the World Cup trophy.

The euphoria of the monumental triumph left Harbhajan sleepless the proceeding night too.

"When we won the game I couldn't sleep the next day either because I was too excited and too happy. That's what the Pakistan game does to you," he said.

"Obviously it's one of those games when the pressure is a little more than when you play against England or New Zealand.

"People in both countries want their respective teams to win and if you end up losing the game the people really get up upset and they go on to lose their minds, which is obviously quite bad."

'More pressure on Indian players'

India were routed in a shocking defeat to Pakistan the last time these two teams met in an ICC tournament as Sarfaraz Ahmed's men won a one-sided contest with a heavy margin of 180 runs in the Champions Trophy final in 2017.

Despite this blip two years ago, Harbhajan considers India definite favourites to emerge victorious when both sides take the field in Old Trafford.

However, he believed India's burgeoning status as a strong unit also attaches more expectations and fans would be desperately desiring their flawless record over Pakistan in World Cups is maintained.

"As a player you always want to play well against Pakistan, so there is more pressure. It's not just for Indian players but for Pakistani players as well," he said.

"But there is more pressure on the Indian players because we have a very good record in these games and we don't want to change that."