Cricket has the power to end the tensions between Pakistan and India, according to former Pakistan captain and cricket legend Wasim Akram.
The rivalry between Pakistan and India has long been branded as one of the most extreme rivalries in world sport but speaking on Wednesday's OTB AM, Akram said that while on the crease the two countries may be enemies, off it cricket can bring them together.
Akram was speaking alongside former Indian captain Dilip Vengsarkar, and the two former stars agreed that the stature of the countries’ rivalry is the biggest in the world.
“We talk about the Ashes as the biggest cricket rivalry, but there is no comparison to India-Pakistan”, Akram declared.
“There is 1.3 billion people in India and 200 million plus people in Pakistan. Imagine the pressure before. At home your mum says don't lose. Your dad says don't lose. Your aunts say don't lose. So for a month you go through this pressure.”
“If you perform well against India as a Pakistani - and vice versa for an Indian against Pakistan - you become a sudden hero in the whole country. All the sponsorship, everybody is after you and if you don't perform well you go right to the bottom."
Akram also recounted the extreme reaction he got from fans when he missed an India versus Pakistan game during the 1996 World Cup through injury.
“I was told by the cricket board [after that] not to come to Pakistan, and I said: ‘It’s my country, where do you want me to go?’”
“And then some people stoned my house so it comes to that extent but what people don't realise is that at the end of the day it is a sport. Somebody has to win, somebody has to lose. As long as you give your 100%, then in the end the best team wins.”
When asked if sport had the power to bring about political change and diplomacy between the two countries, Akram emphasised the importance of “people to people contact” between India and Pakistan.
“This one sport, cricket, brings them together every time. I remember when the Indian team toured in 2005 to Pakistan, the whole of Pakistan was awake looking after thousands of Indians coming [to the country] for the first time, they got looked after beautifully by Pakistan.
“And vice versa if a Pakistani team goes to India and Pakistani supporters go and support their team, they get looked after in India very well too.”
Vengsarkar added: “When you look at the game you see it as a sport and you look at it positively in that sense. Because from sport you can only gain.”
India and Pakistan will play each other in the ICC one day international World Cup on June 16th this summer.