India v Pakistan: treat it as just another match!

Each one of you who’ll be at Eden Gardens on Saturday I’d suggest just go there and admire a young fast bowler Mohammad Amir bowling to Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. For a moment forget what countries they are representing. For a moment forget what is happening at the LoC.

Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi greets Virat Kohli during their training session at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Friday. Despite the media projecting any India-Pakistan match as akin to war, the players of both sides get along well with one another.   -  PTI

Imagine a foreigner in India who doesn’t come from a cricket-playing country. In the last three days he might have got the impression that India and Pakistan are at war with each other. At least our news channels would have made him feel that way. One of them has billed Saturday’s India-Pakistan cricket match as “Mahabharata” while someone else has claimed, “Pakistan Khabardar, India taiyaar” which if loosely translated means Pakistan beware, India is ready. And then there are titles like “Mahasangram” and “Takkar” while one of my creative friends has revived the memories of “Mauka-Mauka” from the 2015 World Cup promotional campaign.

I don’t know whether it is a desperate search for TV ratings or the modern way of expressing nationalism, but there is something which is going haywire. I have been a part of numerous India-Pakistan encounters, World Cup or otherwise. You have my word that despite my on-field skirmishes with Shahid Afridi and Kamran Akmal we still are good friends. For God’s sake we never discuss border tensions or politics in both countries. Our chat is generally around checking the well-being of cricketers whom we have played with or against at a point of time. I have been doing some media work with former Pakistan cricketer Shoaib Akhtar. Our chat ranges from anything from the quality of KFC chicken in India as compared to Pakistan to the quality of hotel he is staying in Delhi or even the vibrant coloured outfits that he proudly wears as a TV commentator.

So, whatever my foreigner friend is made to believe by the news channels or even my Indian friends make of an India-Pakistan game, it is just another fixture. Each one of you who’ll be at Eden Gardens on Saturday I’d suggest just go there and admire a young fast bowler Mohammad Amir bowling to Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. For a moment forget what countries they are representing. For a moment forget what is happening at the LoC. For a moment forget the issues that are almost thrust upon us by different selfish stakeholders and just enjoy the raw talent on both sides. I don’t know what Afridi’s real age is, but I doubt if he’ll ever be back in India again. Just enjoy the presence of Mohammad Irfan and Wahab Riaz on a cricket field. I do.

 

For me the contest is between Pakistan’s bowling and India’s batting on a good pitch. They will be searching for a proper length to bowl at the Indian batsmen. It can be challenging if India bats second as the white ball swings around in the evening when temperatures dip a little. Our captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni is good with tosses and I hope he wins this one and bats first. The other good thing about India is except a handful, the youngsters in the team do not carry the excess baggage of losses to Pakistan. This helps as you are not fighting internal demons while stepping on the field.

Whatever be the result of this game, let us all pledge we won’t go over the top. No one should break his TV set, the bursting of crackers should be rationed and there should be no stinging Facebook posts or twitter battles. No throwing stones at the houses of cricketers or disturbing their families. Trust me, this is just another day and in any case we cannot let our foreigner friends run away from our country thinking we are at war with Pakistan.

Hawkeye Communications