Saturday, June 15, 2019

Of Pakistan vs India, Manchester, and Co-Existing ...

Pakistan vs India is the biggest a cricket match can get; Pakistan vs India at an ICC World Cup is the grandest stage of them all.

It is the first match to sell out, it is the first match that 90% of the cricket viewing public look out for when the schedule is released, it is the most anticipated match of any tournament (let alone a World Cup), and it is the most watched match at a Cricket World Cup.

The players always talk about how it is like any other match for them.

It is not true. It is all talk.

The pressure, the excitement, the nerves are all multiplied for the cricketers.

Performing against either team can make careers; not performing can destroy them. Ask Chetan Sharma.

For the fans, it is all about bragging rights.

"World Cup beshak har jao, India se mat haarna" - something commonly heard in Pakistan.

"Hum ne Pakistan ko haraya, hamare liye yehi World Cup ke barabar hai" - heard in India in 1992.

For fans living in India and Pakistan, it is quite different than for expats living in a place like the UAE or the UK for example.

Residents of India and Pakistan do not interact with each other (besides on social media).

For us expats, it is a totally different ball game.

Schools, offices, apartment buildings, residential communities, shopping malls, restaurants, supermarkets, cinema halls, wherever you go, Pakistanis and Indians coexist.

You have to face each other before and after the match. Sometimes even during the match!

But it never gets hostile. We coexist. Always have.

I grew up in Abu Dhabi. Had a bunch of Indian friends in school. My father had Indian colleagues. We had Indian neighbors. We studied together, we partied together, played cricket together, watched cricket together.

We coexisted throughout all those Sharjah Cup matches.

We had a school cricket team, which had Pakistanis and Indians. We used to play a lot of Pakistan vs India matches against each other, but against other schools we united as one. We were one hell of a great team.

The school team captain was Pakistani. The Vice Captain was Indian. We selected together, strategized together, played together.

The openers were a Pakistani and an Indian. Boy what an opening combination it was.

There were 4 Indians in the top 6 of the batting order. The opening pace attack was Pakistani - a left arm and a right arm pace bowler!

One fond memory of those days is of the Independence Cup played in India in 1997.

It was Pakistan vs India at Chennai.

We watched the match at an Indian friend's house. A dozen Indians and a dozen Pakistanis under one roof.

Saeed Anwar created a new world record - the highest ODI score of 194.

Pakistan won the game and our gracious Indian host treated us to KFC after the match.

We coexisted quite happily.

A decade later, I went to study at Manchester Business School. I was one of two Pakistanis in the Class of 2011. There were 30 odd Indians.

My flatmate was an Indian.

His parents were terrified that he was sharing an apartment with a Pakistani.

We laughed about it. We still laugh about it.

I captained our class team in the MBA Cricket League.

I was one of the only two Pakistanis in the squad. There were 10 Indians.

We played together happily.

A year later, I represented the MBS Cricket Team as an alumni and played under an Indian captain. Again, happily!

In another country, a decade after leaving high school, once again, we studied together, partied together, lived together, ate together, played cricket together, and watched it together.

I watched the entire ICC World Cup 2011 with Indians, including the Mohali semifinal between Pakistan and India.

Even today, we talk about it.

I am on a whatsapp group with all those Indians and the banter still hasn't stopped. It never will. But we will continue to coexist, happily.

Living and working in Dubai, I have so many more such examples of us Pakistanis and Indians coexisting.

There is no animosity. We work together. We play together. We travel together. We watch Pakistan vs India together.

Which we shall do on Sunday 16 June 2019 as well!

I am traveling to Manchester for the match.

The place I have so many fond memories of. The place I made really good friends. Including Indian friends.

The place where Pakistan will take on India at Old Trafford!

It can't get better, nor bigger, than this. Not for me at least.

This coming weekend, Manchester will be a sea of green and blue and the city will be buzzing like never before.

To all my Indian friends - all the best!

To all my Pakistan friends - jeetega bhai jeetega, PAKISTAAAN jeetega!

Pakistan has lost every single World Cup match against India. All 6 of them. Two of them knock outs.

But you know what will happen on Sunday?

Virat Kohli will become the first ever Indian captain to lose a World Cup match to Pakistan.

And after the game, we will continue to coexist. In Manchester, In Dubai, and world over. Happily!


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3 Pitched:

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