Bowling legend Wasim Akram has appealed to the fans of both India and Pakistan to stay calm, maintain peace and enjoy the battle between cricket’s two powerhouses in the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 on June 16 in Manchester. Despite knowing the pressure of playing a high-octane clash against arch-rivals India at the cricket’s biggest stage, Akram has played down the importance of the big-ticket game. Currently in England as a commentator for the quadrennial event, Wasim labelled the latest meeting between the neighbouring countries as “the biggest match of the World Cup”. (Full Coverage – ICC Cricket World Cup 2019)

But with passions running high among both fanbases and political relations between the countries extremely tense, the legendary pacer said the match should be enjoyed rather than used to inflame the situation.

“This can’t be bigger,” Wasim was quoted by AFP. “India and Pakistan playing at the World Cup with over a billion audience is the biggest thing in cricket, so my message to both sets of fans to enjoy it and stay calm.

“One team will win, one team will lose, so stay graceful and do not take this as a war. Those who project this match as war are not true cricket fans.”

If the reports are to be believed, the Indo-Pak encounter at the iconic Old Trafford is a complete sell-out. Also, tickets are now for sale on the black market at a whopping price of around £2,500 ($3,150).

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Akram, who himself has witnessed many such moments in his illustrious cricket career also spoke about the pressure on players of both teams. “Who can realise the pressure more than me?” said Wasim. “I used to look forward to a match against India because it brings the best out of the players from both the sides.”

Pakistan have never beaten India in six World Cup matches dating back to 1992, but the 53-year-old thinks that poor run could change on Sunday. “Pakistan can beat India through controlled aggression,” said Wasim, who was part of the Pakistan team in the 1992, 1999, 2003 World Cups when they lost to India.

He was sidelined through a shoulder injury when India beat Pakistan in the 1996 quarter-finals.

“Yes, I don’t have fond memories of the World Cup matches against India but I have enjoyed all these matches over the year as fans are glued to television wherever they are. It will be like that again on Sunday,” he said.

Wasim admits India have a stronger line-up, but he insists Pakistan can still shock their rivals in a one-off match, as they did in the 2017 Champions Trophy final. “Yes, India have a strong batting and bowling line up but Pakistan can match them. When it comes to India and Pakistan game the team that handles the pressure well wins the day,” he said.

“I surely hop that rain stays off. Fans want to watch full matches, intense and lively so we all hope that rain stays away.”

Team India stands at the fourth spot in the leaderboard with five points from three matches. The Men in Blue defeated South Africa and Australia, while their match against New Zealand was washed out on Thursday. Meanwhile, Pakistan have lost against the West Indies and Australia but manage to shock hosts England. They are presently at eighth place with three points.