Last Sunday It was a big day . Everyone was excited about the India versus Pakistan ODI match to be pl
ayed at the Manchester in England. Kashmiris eagerly looked forward to the contest. When the ODI World Cup schedule was announced, cricket fans in the valley marked june 16 as the big day for the brig contest of the world cup tournament being played in England and there is no doubt which team they are rooting for. It is no secret that most Kashmiris have traditionally been supporting Pakistani team. For many people, like me, it seems more of an inherent thing. I have grown up supporting Pakistani team whichever country they play against, including India, and I may not be able to give any convincing reason for the same. Sometimes we in the childhood days learnt about it from our elders. However, it can turn quite political and ugly when this fondness is ascribed to something else as some Kashmiri students found out 6 years back. Cricket and sedition had never been spoken off in the same breath until over 60 Kashmiri students, studying in an Uttar Pradesh university, were slapped with sedition charges in March 2014 as they had celebrated Pakistan team’s win over India in a nail-biting Asia Cup match against India. Coming under sharp criticism for undue politicization of the game of cricket, the government was forced to drop the charges against the Kashmiri students. However, the case has perhaps changed the way Kashmiris would express their emotions in an India-Pakistan match outside the valley. They would be careful lest their cheering for Pakistani team invites undue attention from the Indian supporters and land themselves in trouble. Not many people in India would be aware of the loyalties of Kashmiris as far as cricket is concerned. Here Shahid Afridi was a bigger superstar than Virat Kohli and Kashmiris can’t resist cheering for every six he hits against any opposition, including India.
Why a billion people will watch when India, Pakistan play? MANCHESTER, England — The men sit in a pub on the eve of the Cricket World Cup coming to their new home. Their old home is between modern nation states of Pakistan and India in the mountain region known as Kashmir. They live in Manchester now, their lives forever changed when an Englishman named Cyril Radcliffe drew a line on a map in 1947 and tried to put Muslims on one side and Hindus on another, with predictable results. In the decades that followed, a dam project flooded large swaths of the area where they lived. They truly cannot go home again. “It destroyed a very old civilisation,” one man said. “It destroyed a way of life.”
On Sunday in Manchester, India and Pakistan had played the latest installment of the most important and fraught sporting rivalry in the world. The countries have fought three wars (and several near-wars) — over simple things such as land and borders and complicated things such as religion and home, depending on whom you ask. In the World Cup, they have faced each other six times. India have won all six, including a match in 1999 that was played while the countries skirmished and nearly started the fourth of those wars. Shots were being fired in Kashmir as the team took the field at Manchester’s Old Trafford (a half-mile from the more famous football stadium with the same name). Cricket is by far the most popular sports in the sub-continent and India and Pakistan make up for fascinating cricketing rivalry stoking passions in both countries whenever the two teams clash, but things often get ugly when the event is blown out of proportion. Some Indian news channels, which are even otherwise known for sensationalism, turn India-Pakistan matches into a subject of national pride where victory and defeat is taken as a matter of life and death. Amid the tense atmosphere, cricket ceases to be a sport. It appears more like a full-fledged war where there is no place for defeat. Such a portrayal of a cricket match is not good for the spirit of sportsmanship. Many Pakistani fans ahead of the game believed that losing against India would be worse than losing the World Cup final. Indian fans don’t think differently: “We want to win this [Sunday] match even if Virat Kohli [Indian captain] loses the Cup, we don’t care,” Harron Memon, an India fan in Nottingham, told the AFP news agency. Supporters of World Cup favorites, India, had been confident that their team would beat the out-of-form Pakistani team, as their record against Pakistan in the 50-over format has been excellent. The Indian government cut off bilateral cricket ties with Pakistan after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which New Delhi claims were orchestrated by Pakistan-based militants. International cricket has been banned in Pakistan since Islamist militants attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009, injuring some players. Pakistan and India have played several cricket matches in the past few years, but on neutral grounds. Ties between India and Pakistan have worsened since a border clash between the two countries in February this year. At the time, some former Indian players suggested the Indian Cricket Board should boycott the World Cup match in response to Pakistan’s alleged support for militancy in Kashmir, but former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram urged both Indians and Pakistanis to take it as a game of cricket only. “One team will win, one team will lose, so stay graceful and do not take this as a war,” he told AFP in Manchester, where the Sunday match is being played. “Those who project this match as war are not true cricket fans,” the 1992 World Cup-winning fast bowler added. Pandering to desires of Indian fans, sports broadcasters have been running advertisements, which appear to me more provocative than entertaining. The game should just be taken as a game. There should be no undue expectations or comparisons. It is better to keep cricket as cricket and nothing else. The ideal thing would indeed be to just sit back and enjoy the game!
(The author a student from Nowpora Kreeri area of Baramulla district is an aspirer for admission to Aligarah Muslim University. Views are his own firstname.lastname@example.org)