Thursday, September 1, 2011

Beyond the barbed defense – A tale of two nations

March 30-2011, PCA stadium, Mohali–The stage was set for the mother of all battles–The semi-finals of ICC cricket world cup 2011 where India locked horns with their arch rivals Pakistan in a bid to make it to the grand finale of the world cup. Work in India and Pakistan came to a grinding halt, streets wore a deserted look and billions of cricket fanatics remained glued to the TV sets as the arch foes, with a bitter political past, made for a fascinating cricketing rivalry on field which ignites the passion and emotions on both sides of the border more often than not.
The match had all the makings of a cracker–An initial Indian blitz from the openers, a Pakistani comeback, crowd pondering over the prospects of a possible Indian batting collapse, followed by a blazing start by the Pakistani batsmen, resurgent comeback by Indian bowlers and the cherry on the cake–The victory moment which put India en route to Mumbai. Add to this some brilliant individual performances–Tendulkar scoring runs, catches being dropped, few peach deliveries and some controversial DRS calls and one would say that the match lived up to its hype. Though India wrapped up the fixture with ease, the match was surely not devoid of those “tensed” moments. Emotions reached a crescendo as India registered one of its greatest victories, a victory which will be remembered for decades to come.
One look at the bigger picture and you might realise the real essence of this clash of titans. It was not just cricket, it was a medium of bridging the gap that was created between the two neighbours after the infamous 26/11 attacks. If ever there was a platform where you could have the privilege of seeing an Indian join hands with a Pakistani counterpart, this was it. Cricket, for decades, has been the binding force for these two nations. It is indeed difficult to exaggerate the excitement that builds up on both sides of the border whenever these two teams clash on the cricket field. Millions remain glued to the TV sets with absenteeism at work reaching an all time high. Such is the aura of the game that people forget about their bitter past and unite just to enjoy the exciting present. In context of Indo-Pak relations, the Mohali match was of prime importance. It came at a time when the political ties between the two nations had hit an all time low. There was suspicion in the air, talks of suspending all cricket ties were doing rounds. In such a dreadful scenario, the semi-final clash pumped a breath of fresh air in the relations of these two Asian giants.
The heads held high to the mesmerizing tunes of ‘VANDE-MATARAM’, the beating of a million hearts during the re-plays, Pakistani fans praying for their team’s victory, commentators screaming with anticipation. The political honchos, Rahul and Sonia Gandhi, making their presence felt by sharing the victory moments with the spectators, the latter throwing up her hands at the fall of last wicket. The bollywood brigade, led by Mr.perfectionist Aamir Khan, cheering for team India. And finally, the two Prime Ministers shaking hands after the match ended.
Everything had its own significance. Never before were such minor happenings taken to heart. But then, this was not just ‘any’ occasion, it was a world cup semi-final between India and Pakistan. Though the picture perfect moment came much before the victory. And it was well and truly better than those scripted hair-raising moments and it came when the two teams walked out draped in their signature colours holding the hands of young kids in white. The mere presence of these young kids swathed in white attire was underlining the importance of this match–It wasn’t a battle for supremacy. It was an attempt to restore peace between the two nations.
As the PMs walked out on the field together to shake hands with the players, you could feel that sense of unity. It all seemed to be a part of the fairy-tale script. Who would have imagined this after 26/11? But it happened and when it happened, it taught us some real lessons of life.
It was a testimony to the fact that as wounded (wounded by terrorism and corruption) nations, we can walk hand in hand in times of distress and above all, we can be the messiahs of peace and unity even though our pasts are burdened with enmity, anger and above all the seeds of distrust.
Leave aside the political aspect and you might well come to terms with the love and respect the people of two nations share. If cricket can bring us close, then so be it. Yes, there is no denial to the fact that when these two teams face each other on the field, it is no more a cricket match. It is a battle, a battle for survival, a battle to avenge the past losses and prove something to each other.
And then there is the drama of raw emotion on the field as well and to be honest it really doesn’t matter whether you are a cricket fan or not, because it is impossible to stay indifferent from the agony, excitement and unbound joy that these matches generate.
Frankly speaking, there is a very thin line of difference between India and Pakistan. Both nations are living through layers of corruption and have been dismantled by heinous acts of terrorism. Amidst all such chaos, cricket is a medium for these two nations to exhibit their patriotism, a chance to free themselves from the deadly gallows of all the mess that is lying around them and feel the unity which more often than not gets overshadowed by the dark clouds of skepticism.
In a nutshell, 30th march was a glittering example of the possibilities that can come up if the nations meet each other over a cricket match leaving aside all the political jargon. It was a stage for the aam-janta to express their thoughts–a stage where there was no political intervention. Cricket was the real winner.
With Pakistan scheduled to play a bilateral series in India in 2012 for the first time after the infamous terror strikes, we hope that the cricketing ties between the two nations play a pivotal role in embellishing their ever so charming relations. The people have clearly understood that:
Cricket to sirf bahana hai do ruthe dosto ko milane ka.
Avi for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Avi on Twitter @KnightsDen

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