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Former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi has pleaded with the Indian government to "soften" its stance on resumption of bilateral cricket ties between the two countries as he feels it can reduce tensions.
"I really hope that we see resumption of bilateral cricket between the two countries and would request the Indian cricket board and the Indian government to soften their stance," Afridi wrote in a column for the ICC ahead of the Champions Trophy summit clash between India and Pakistan here tomorrow.
India and Pakistan have not played any bilateral cricket since 2007.
"Having captained Pakistan in the 2011 World Cup semi- final at Mohali, I know the importance of the game and how it brings the two nations to a standstill while underlining the message of peace and tolerance for each other.
"Cricket can be an actual source of bringing the two nations together and reducing the tensions," he added.
Talking about tomorrow's match, Afridi said even though Pakistan had been outplayed by India in the league stage, they would still be a handful on the big day.
"...The unpredictability and never-say-die spirit of Pakistan cricket is here for all of us to celebrate again as we all await with bated breaths for what promises to be an epic clash at The Oval in London," he said.
Afridi feels tomorrow's match is a "god-given" opportunity for current skipper Sarfraz Ahmed to leave a "lasting legacy".
"The feisty wicket-keeper batsman is still learning the art of captaincy, yet has grown in stature as a leader in every game in this tournament. My advice to Sarfraz for the final is simple - take all decisions wholeheartedly and without any fear whatsoever," he said.
Afridi singled out India's batting as the biggest threat to Pakistan's chances in the match.
"Virat Kohli's team has already proved its credentials as the best batting unit in the tournament. Its top-order is in great nick and it has a powerful trio of MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh and Hardik Pandya in the middle-order," he said.
"The Indian batsmen look unfazed even in a pressure situation, Kohli's scarcely believable record while chasing is known to all and I believe that Pakistan would have to target taking wickets with the new ball since strikes at the top of the innings are likely to be crucial for the game's outcome," he added.