Thursday, March 31, 2011

I watched the match with 200 Indians.


In the lead up to what undoubtedly is the most important cricket match I have witnessed in my life I read probably over 100 articles about the epic India-Pakistan semi-final. Many of them were fascinating to read, including an article from the Times of India about the Punjabi connection this match was facilitating. However, there was one in particular I disagreed with; the ‘Dil Bolay Boom Boom’ article. To sum up, basically the Pakistani writer here says she just simply can’t watch an India cricket game with her dear Indian friend. No two nations in the world love cricket more than India and Pakistan, and fans of these two countries should be able to watch games together. I, therefore, was all too happy to confirm my involvement in a joint screening of the cricket match on campus.

So come the day, finally, and my guess that not too many fair weather fans would show up at 4 am was way off. The Michigan Cricket Association did a brilliant job organizing the screening of the match on campus, and an hour before the match started the crowd started to trickle in. By the time of the toss there was a good 150 odd people in a room not built for more than 70, but what good would a India-Pakistan game be if we weren’t packed like a can of sardines. The noise level was incredible, with the Indians accounting for a good chunk of that. In our crowd which eventually grew close to 300, Indians outnumbered Pakistanis by, I’d say, at least 4:1. That didn’t deter us one bit, we were being heard as well. No one had a hope in hell of hearing the toss, our crowd was just too raucous.

With such a momentous occasion it was hard not to be a bit nervous about things perhaps going south with some of the animosity that can naturally exist between the two nations. However, MCA did a brilliant job of making sure everyone was able to watch the game in the right spirit. There, of course, were a few incidents that in hindsight should have been avoided but really nothing more than a blip on the radar. For the most part the atmosphere was sublime. The Indians cheered every boundary with amazing fervor, and not two overs passed with a chant for the god of batting: ‘saaccchiiinnnnn sachin!’ Of course, we did our best, amusing the Indians with our ‘tara-rere-roro-ra’ chant. The best part was that everyone was joining in, from unknown grad students who randomly stopped by to freshmen still finding their way: no one was holding back anything. I must admit I tried to stay calm but when Wahab bhai shattered the stumps of Yuvraj Singh, I was overcome with sheer elation. I beat my chest so many times and so hard I knocked my own breath out, but thankfully no one noticed in the commotion! The Pakistanis overall were a joy to watch the match with. They were all well behaved, kept their cool and showed incredible grace as our team headed towards the exit door.

The second innings was a much calmer affair. We shifted to a larger room and there was more segregation. People were also losing steam, as the all-nighters start to catch up and the voices slowly disappeared. However, they came roaring back on the Indian side when Kamran Akmal got caught at point for about the 10,000th time of his career. Hafeez’s dismissal brought more noise in anger from the Pakistanis than it did in joy for the Indians. The match was close enough that the Indians were nervous till the end, but the balance shifted with one magic ball. Bhajji came round the wicket with the newer ball after the mandatory change and Umar Akmal played all around a delivery that crashed into his off-stump. Pakistan may still have had a chance if we took that damn batting powerplay early. People may blame Afridi all they want, the real culprit in my eyes is Waqar Younis. As the coach, he is responsible for the poor tactical decisions made right throughout this tournament about the timing of the batting powerplays.

Take nothing away from the Indians. They were the better team and deserved to win on the day. Sachin may have been lucky to win the man of the match, but if anyone deserves a bit of luck, it is the batting god himself. Dhoni was spot on with all of his bowling changes, and only had to use 5 bowlers. The contest was fitting for the hype, and sets a stage fit for two legends to bow out. I don’t think Sachin is about to retire but I highly doubt he is going to be around when he is 41 although you never know, but it’s a safe bet to say this is his last World Cup. The other legend who is in my eyes equally great is of course the one and only Muttiah Muralitharan, whose spelling changes as often as Razzaq’s so forgive me if I don’t have the updated version of his spelling. Where Sachin has 99 tons, Murali has over 1300 wickets. Sachin is the leading runs scorer in both firms of the game, Murali is the leading wicket taker in both forms of the game. The difference is of course Sachin is at home while Murali already has a World Cup title. Whatever the outcome at least one great will end his stellar career right on top. I am going to watch the game as a true neutral. Sri Lanka has always been my second favorite team since the days of the magical Arivinda de Silva which is why I may lean towards them. I will not however root against India, some might and that’s fine, but I have no qualms about enjoying good Indian cricket.

But this is not about a preview of the final or a breakdown of the match. What moved me to write this article was the camaraderie between two amazing countries. Over the last four years at college, I have developed the most fantastic relationships with Indians stretching from Delhi to Bangalore and beyond. This match did not for one second jeopardize those friendships, in fact it strengthened them. When the final wicket of Misbah fell, before celebrating, Nirmit Agarwala, the president of MCA and the leading voice on the Indian side came over to the Pakistani side and congratulated and consoled each one of us. This was followed by my normal gang: Anant, Varun, Aaron, Baliga and many more. There was no taunting, no jeering, just cheering for a great victory. The experience of losing to India with 200-odd other Indians remains a shattering one, and the pain is here to stay for some time. However, as long as I have friends like these on both sides of the border, it is a pain I can live with.

13 comments:

  1. Loved the conclusion. So true!

    Sana Malalai

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  2. I must say that your indian friends are a bit too nice .... Things were quite different in the two games that I happened to watch while in michigan...
    I don't agree that the outcome of saturday's game will decide whose career will end on top ...Both stalwarts are playing at their best currently and winning the world cup will be just another feather in their cap when looking at their entire career !!!

    However it will be only fitting for Sachin to score his hundreth international century at his hometown mumbai and lift the world cup in the city where it all began !! Its written ! Its his destiny

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  3. Kush sahab I am not saying that one or the other will have a better career overall, just that only one gets the fitting send off they both deserve. I would love to see Sachin achieve just that, let us see, game should be amazing! And the T20 final and champions trophy I thought were watched in good spirits as well, as far as I can remember there was no taunting in Catherine after that game either. You are nicer than you give yourself credit for :p

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  4. haha bollocks it was watched in good spirits. Ask the guy who got the shit kicked out of him in Catherine after the T20 final, or the guy who produced a sword after the Champions trophy match.
    I reckon the group you watched in was bigger so the atmosphere was a bit tame, I remember watching the above two matches in groups of 30 with an equal ratio of Pakistanis and Indians, and I assure you, the atmosphere was no where near would one would call civil. There was cussing, ugly chants and sheer unfiltered emotion. And not to say either side was worse, becuase I feel both sides were just as bad. I remember personally rubbing it in Indian faces, after being kicked numerous times on a previous occasion.
    But it is testament to the friendships we established that day, that nothing was lost of the bonds we had, since we talked to each other in the same way the next day. The India Pak match is a true test of any one who feels that they have a cross border friendship to cherish. And I for one feel that, these friendships grow stronger after the match.
    I have not been in regular touch with all my Indian friends ever since I came back from college, but this match reignited our conversations.
    However I feel that Saturdays match could present a problem with the Pakistani argument. The Indian argument rests on the basis of their impeccable record against us in the WCs and our argument rests on our much better overall record against them and every one else. And I assure you, we have run the numbers and the only two statistics the Indian team is better then the Pakistani team is, head to head in the wc and the overseas records against Australia. We are virtually better in every other way. but I fear that argument will be tilted if India take another world cup. So, heres to hoping Sangakar and Murali steal the show on Saturday, even if, it is only for the sake of argument :)

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  5. mazaydaar piece! however, i will say that iv been reading soooo many articles and such short blogs from pakistanis appreciating the game played by the indian team but nothing is being written by the indians for the pakistani side! .. i mean come on!

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  6. Hey Shazil.. very well written man.. truly wonderful crowd to watch the match with.. both sides.. such a small room, but the atmosphere was almost comparable to my Wankhede outings.. (and that is to say something ;) ) About the heated moments, I think the game would be no fun without all the tension.. :)

    Sarah, this might be no excuse but I guess while the Pakistanis are reflecting on the previous game, most Indians are just anxiously waiting for the next.. that being said, there is no doubt that every Indian appreciated the way Pakistan played.. right from Wahab, Umar Akmal and unplayable Afridi, Ajmal.. and the way Afridi conducted himself at the presentation was fabulous.. his press video after reaching Pakistan also just spectacular..

    I am delighted that I watched this match with the best crowd ever.. thankyou..

    -Unknown Grad Student.. :-P

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  7. @Sarah From an Indian....on behalf of all Indians....we just love u Shahid bhai and team pakistan and all our Pakistani brothers and sisters....U guys played like champions...khel mein har jeet hoti hai....but dil jeet liya Shahid bhai ne sab ka....May God give him and the entire pakistani team strength to do well in the future and INSHALLAH u guys will kick ass in a few days....This is just a small token of love, respect and appreciation for our brothers and sisters across the border....on behalf of all Indians, from an Indian....we need more people like Shahid Afridi and he is up there in my list of heroes...


    P.S. Watch Shahid's interview on Youtube...it brought tears to my eyes...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tv749SCqzuU&feature=player_embedded#at=41

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