THE MOST-ANTICIPATED GAME OF CWC 19?
India and Pakistan will face-off in this famous clash on Sunday in Manchester, which a lot of Indians and Pakistanis living in England call home ©AFP
What does an India-Pakistan match mean today? It’s futile to place a range of varied opinions and views, which are historically and politically driven into a single bracket. It runs the risk of lacking nuance, and more dangerously, being insensitive. Yet, there can be threads that run common through all of it.
If you were a soldier on either side of the border, this is the time you see others carrying the burden of the cross. Much before the tournament started, a colonel from India, referred to 16 June as a day of ‘prime importance’. It was partly tongue-in-cheek, when the chat was about the then upcoming World Cup. “Men will be on their triggers,” he said. And before you think of loaded images, he was referring to how there’d be celebratory gunshots fired in the air, whenever an India-Pakistan match is happening.
War minus the guns, but why, wonders a cab driver in Nottingham. He’s from Kashmir. “Pakistan side,” he had told a few other Indian fans who he’d picked up earlier in the day when he ferried them over to Trent Bridge. He wonders why their tone, suddenly turned cold, and the chat about cricket stopped. “I don’t know why.”
A train packed with Indian fans are making their way towards Manchester. “And you told me this one will be quiet,” quips an English passenger for his mate to quickly apologise. The staff in the train are not prepared for this onslaught, and struggle to keep mammoth suitcases in order. It’s a four-carriage rail to Liverpool. You could sense a sigh of relief as Manchester comes on, where roughly two of the carriages empty out. Some of them have travelled from United States, even New Zealand. They are full of bombast. “Indian fans, good news, two England players got injured today,” shouts out one. It’s met with resounding silence.
A third generation Indian family, living in England, have a son who is least interested in cricket. “Bungee jumping, skydiving. That’s more my kind of thing,” he says. He’s the odd one out. “But I think, I’ll watch the India-Pakistan game,” he says and chuckles at the devious planning behind hosting it in Manchester, which, he says, “a LOT” of Indians and Pakistanis have made their home. In that, Ishaaq, might have inadvertently hit upon what this game ‘means’.
In an ideal world, that question ought be wistfully brushed off. It’s a sport, dummy. Nothing less, but definitely nothing more.
But despite that knowledge, this hype is unlikely to have not crossed you. Advertisers back in India and Pakistan are doing their best to cash in. Some of it smart, some of it cringe-worthy. All of them opportunistic. And even the ads have raised debates on TV and elsewhere. And in social media of today, opinions have to be given. Not necessarily for nuance, but for relevance. At its core, everyone’s engaged in this game of moustache twirling.
The soldiers are open about it. It is their chance to celebrate a win without risking their lives. The cabbie is hurt by it, because those emotions have nothing to do with who he is. The travelling fans carry through these feelings, irrespective of whether the audience is invested in it as much as them. But it also leads people like Ishaaq to check out this one game more than any other in the World Cup. Sport be damned, when the money-churn starts. It’s a truth that holds good down the years, and for famous rivalries across sport.
So what does it mean, then? Anything, everything or nothing? But it sells, more than all else in the World Cup.