Kolkata: Former captain Imran Khan today hinted that India have an edge over Pakistan in the much-anticipated World Cup semifinal but said that past history will have no bearing in the clash between the arch rivals.
Imran conceded that based on recent form, India are the favorites to win the World Cup. He also rates Mahendra Singh Dhoni as better captain than Shahid Afridi.
"Favorites not always win the World Cup. Home team has never ever won so far. But there is always a first time. Obviously I want Pakistan to win. But at the same time, if ever India had a chance. This is their best chance," said Imran.
"Recent form, recent track record, and they have a very balanced side. This is the best opportunity for the Indians to win the World Cup. Such are very rare chances and it`s a golden opportunity. It may not come in the next World Cup," he said.
Comparing the two captains, Imran said, "Dhoni got the advantage as he is the captain in all three forms. Afridi made a mistake by saying no to captaining Test side. Test match pressure is more than any other form”.
"If you don`t captain in Test cricket, it`s difficult to handle pressure in one-dayers. So Dhoni has a big advantage over Afridi," said the 1992 World Cup-winning skipper.
Pakistan have lost all their four earlier World Cup matches against India but Imran said they have the ability to break the jinx as the home side would be under more pressure at Mohali.
"There is an old saying that you only cross the river once. Purane cricketers beh chuke hain. Ab depend karega Mohali mein kya hota hai (It all depends what happens in Mohali, rest is past). Records are meant to be broken," Imran said.
"I am not trying to play mind games. But pressure would be more on India than Pakistan because of home conditions and the tag being favourites, which is a relief for us. It will depend which team handles pressure better. A team that has the killer instinct will win.
"Pakistan can come up with surprises which no one knows. They are completely unpredictable. Pakistan`s bowling is stronger than India`s but the hosts are a better side when it comes to batting," he said.
On a lighter vein, Imran advised the Indians to take sleeping pills on the eve of the clash.
"I advise Indian cricketers to take sleeping pills or else they would have sleepless nights," he quipped.
Imran said Pakistan would have been the favourites against India if the banned pace duo of Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif were with the side.
"They should have been punished before. But if they were there with the side we would have been the favourites and not India," he said.
Imran was all praise for Sachin Tendulkar for maintaining top form after playing for more than two decades.
"Sachin is at the peak of his game. The combination of experience and his technique. With age you tend to have poor reflexes but he is made up with much better temperament. Sachin is formidable," he said.
He advised Pakistan team management to bolster the pace attack by including Shoaib Akhtar as Indians play spinners easily.
"If Shoaib (Akhtar) is fit then he should play. I don`t know the fitness status. If any team plays spin well that is Indian team. So I should go for the pace department. If I was a captain, I would have taken a chance (bringing Shoaib Akhtar)," he said.
He said Afridi should think of playing in-form batsmen higher up the order.
"Pakistan`s best batsmen are coming at No 4 or 5, they should bat at 3-4. It is much easier trying to avoid a pressure rather than playing without pressure. I don`t
understand the mindset of quality batsmen playing down the order. This could be Achilles Heel," he said.
"While chasing a total, if you lose wickets, run-rate goes up and it`s difficult to bat under those circumstances."
Imran is hoping that Afridi will also come good with the bat, after doing so well with the ball.
"It can be Afridi; so far he has failed. If he has one golden moment of 10 overs, it can make the match for us," he said.
Remembering about the pressure situation in 1987 series against India in India, he said, "It was a deciding Test in Bangalore and everything was shut down. If you multiply that by five times, that`s going to happen on Wednesday.
"When a match is of high pressure, things tend to even out because pressure plays a much bigger part. If some are highly talented, because of pressure they may not be able to perform. But other players who are not as talented will rise to the occasion. The more extreme pressure, great players become ordinary," he said.
Imran said dew factor could play a role in the day-night clash at Mohali.
"Afridi spoke to me before going to Mohali. He was especially concerned about dew and asked me when the dew falls and at what time. Dew can be a factor. That could make a big difference and then toss becomes crucial as bowling second becomes a huge disadvantage."