Tuesday, August 12, 2008

It's just a game.... or is it ???

"What's the score?" inquired an Indian colleague at the office from across the desk.

"Hundred and eighty something for three in thirty overs," I replied, hanging up the telephone that was the source of the information. It was during the last one-day match between India and Pakistan at Delhi in April '05.

Realizing that the Pakistan score was a bit too good, he said," you know what, India must win this match."

"Why?" I asked; a little baffled by the comment.

"Pakistan has already won three," he responded, "now India must square it up with a win so that the extremist Hindus don't get mad and start taking it out on Indian Muslims just because Pakistan won an insignificant cricket match".

"It isn't INSIGNIFICANT, it's an indo-pak match," I thought for a moment. But then, he was right. The significance of the match was nothing compared to even a single human life. Riots had broken out earlier on the outcome of matches and it could happen again.

Pakistan and India might have fought a brace of wars on the battlefield but the scores of battles they fight on cricket pitches every once in a while are thought to be equally important, if not more, by some zealots.

For once, I wanted Pakistan to lose the match but I thank God it didn't happen because even though the Pakistan team obliterated the Indian juggernauts, the fans weren't furious, or at least they didn't vent it out on the Indian Muslims.

Indian team's tour to Pakistan in 2004 was also surrounded by similar speculations. Some critics considered the timing of the series to be the worst possible because the India-Pakistan peace (friendship) process was at a budding stage at that time and they saw the series as a possible threat to the process. But kudos to the Pakistani fans who proved excellent hosts to the Indians and accepted the defeat with honour. 

Even though Pakistan's young burgeoning side was beaten by a much senior and much stronger Indian lineup and the defeat was predictable but most Pakistani cricket fanatics, including myself, were still suspecting Pakistan's loss in the one-day series as a souvenir to the guests from President Pervez Musharraf. And when we heard that the '05 series in India had an even number of matches instead of odd, we were sure that the top officials on both sides of the border had agreed on a drawn series to make sure that the peace process is not hindered by something which, at times, Pakistanis and Indians deem above Kashmir --- cricket.

So much for cricket being just a game.

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