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Arthur looks to folklore as Kohli plays down hype surrounding India v Pakistan showdown

Sunday's (June 16) World Cup match between arch-rivals India and Pakistan comes with high stakes, but while India captain Virat Kohli tried to do away with they hype, Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur told his players it presents the chance for them to etch their names into cricketing folklore.

The nuclear-armed neighbours have gone to war three times since independence in the mid-20th century – and another conflict nearly erupted earlier this year, giving an even spicier-than-usual geopolitical backdrop to the contest.

India have an unblemished record in 50-overs World Cup against their neighbours having beaten Pakistan on each of the six encounters between the former champions.

There has been plenty of hype surrounding Sunday’s sold out contest but Kohli refused to fuel it further.

“I think the best way to approach something like this… it’s not going to last a lifetime for you, whether you do well or you don’t,” Kohli said.

“Our tournament, whether we do well as a team tomorrow or we don’t, is not going to finish… So I think the focus always has to be on the larger picture,” he said.

The match was sold out hours after tickets went on sale for the 26,000-capacity stadium and millions more will be watching at home.

Kohli understands the fan sentiments but said the players have learned to cocoon themselves from the elevated expectations.

“I can’t tell the fans to think in a particular manner. For us, it has to be a professional approach to the game,” said the 30-year-old.

An interesting sub-plot will be the showdown between Kohli, the world’s top ranked ODI batsman, and Pakistan’s pace spearhead Amir who claimed five wickets against Australia in Taunton.

“The match won’t be decided by my runs or his wickets. There are 10 players on each side, they also have to play well. I’m not entering any personal contest or competition,” he added.

As bilateral cricket remains suspended because of political tensions, the neighbours meet each other only in ICC events with emotions running high in both countries.

But while Kohli tampered down the buildup to the hotly-anticipated contest at Old Trafford, Pakistan’s Arthur leaned into it.

“It doesn’t get more exciting,” Arthur said of the hotly-anticipated contest at Old Trafford.

“I’m telling our players in the dressing room, ‘you could be a hero tomorrow. Your careers are going to be defined by a moment in the game. You do something incredible tomorrow, you’ll be remembered forever.

“Our mantra is ‘how do you want to be remembered?’ 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?’

“And tomorrow presents an unbelievable opportunity for these guys to really make a mark.”

Arthur said.

Arthur took charge of a mercurial Pakistan side in 2016 following his stints with South Africa and Australia.

Since then, the 51-year-old said, he has tried to bring in more consistency to the side, but was not too unhappy with the side being branded “unpredictable”.

(Production: Kurt Michael Hall)

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