Editorial - Let cricket win at Mohali - Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=38883&Cat=8

It will be anything but business as usual in the subcontinent today. Life as we know it will simply be put on hold, as billions of people – filled with equal measures of excitement, expectation, anxiety and dread – hold their breath and pray fervently for their teams. With Pakistan and India entering the arena in Mohali for a do or die World Cup semi-final, can anything else matter for a day? The fates could not have conspired to come up with a more promising script. Yes. It could have been the final, but no one is in the mood to quibble over such trifling details. To listen to some street corner pundits, this is the real final, a match to win at all costs regardless of what happens next. Such is the hype surrounding this encounter that it is easy to lose sight of the real aim of every team: nothing less than bringing home the World Cup, cricket’s most treasured prize.

Cricket aside, the match also holds the tantalising promise of kick starting the stuttering peace process between the troubled neighbours. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh will be among the thousands of fans in the stadium rooting for their teams. There will be no bigger prize for both sides than if peace emerges as the ultimate winner at Mohali. Setting the hype aside, the match does promise to be all the more exciting because of the contrasting styles of the competing teams. While Dhoni’s India have the more formidable batting line-up and are perched comfortably on the higher rungs of the cricketing rankings, Afridi’s underrated Pakistanis have an abundance of talent, especially in the bowling department. They have surprised everyone by bouncing back after a year of upheavals and scandals with a new-found team spirit and determination. India would like nothing more than to blast their opponents off the field by the sheer strength of their batting, while the unpredictable but exciting Pakistani underdogs would like to lay an ambush for the favourites and announce their return to the front ranks to those who had written them off.

On the day, talent and skill will obviously play a big part but given the unprecedented hype and hysteria surrounding the match, it is the team that handles the pressure best that will walk off triumphant. In the pressure cooker atmosphere of Mohali, with the home crowds rooting for India, the Pakistanis will have to battle not just their arch-rivals but also a deafening din and their nerves. Their hope will be to silence the crowds and toss the pressure back to the Indians. Hell hath no fury like a disappointed South Asian crowd! An India-Pakistan match is always more than just another simple cricket match. Whether they like it or not, the players are forced to lug the baggage of more than six decades of bitterness and acrimony with them every time they face one another. They also carry the hopes and aspirations of millions of fans on both sides of the border. The more hysterical segments of the media are bent on portraying the encounter as nothing less than war by other means and appealing to people’s baser instincts by whipping up jingoism and chauvinism. Difficult though it might seem given the raw emotions, it is important for fans to remember that this is just a game. One side will win today and the other will lose. While it is not abnormal to feel crushed over a defeat and ecstatic about winning, cricket should be larger than merely an appeal to primeval instincts. The sport is as much about the spirit of the game, respect for your opponent’s grace in defeat and magnanimity in victory. It is about reviving the same large-hearted spirit displayed when the two sides last toured each other’s countries and enjoyed every minute of the gripping contests, in both victory and defeat. So let us sit back, savour the joys of the game and pray that the best team wins.

And please God, let it be Pakistan!

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