archrivals India and Pakistan gear for a face-off in the cricket
World Cup semi-finals in Mohali Wednesday, passions are running high
among the ardent cricket lovers of Kashmir Valley, where both teams
enjoy a large fan following. Matches between India and Pakistan have
the power to evoke great passions.
An old-timer vividly remembers an incident during a Test match in
Delhi, way back in the 1950s, when radio was the only means of
running commentaries on sports events.
"A meat seller in Kokerbazar, adjacent to Lal Chowk, sliced his
transistor into two with a butcher's knife after the commentator
announced Pakistan's captain Hanif Mohammad had been bowled,"
recalled Abdul Rehman Sheikh, 89.
Pakistan cricket players have a large following - cutting across all
ages - in the old areas of Srinagar city.
"Some years back, an elderly woman suffered a fatal heart attack in
the old city after a Pakistan star batsman was out for a duck," a
police officer said.
It is not only the Pakistan cricketers who evoke strong feelings
among the sports lovers in the Valley. Indian players especially
Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni
have ardent fans among the youth here.
"Sachin is not only a cricket player, he is a phenomenon perhaps
never to be equalled by others," said Danish, 18, a student.
Owais, 21, is a great fan of Sehwag and Dhoni.
"To maintain your cool while you stand behind the stumps and also
captain the team is not an easy job. Dhoni has been doing it like a
rock. Sehwag has been the sultan of Multan where he scored a double
"The clash between India and Pakistan is the most interesting sports
event in my life although I have more favourites in the Indian
team," Owais told IANS.
Streets usually get deserted in Srinagar during India-Pakistan
sports clashes with government offices, business establishments and
educational institutions largely empty.
The Mohali match is no exception, with people looking forward to it.
"The Mohali match is the mother of all matches as both India and
Pakistan would be fighting each other to get into the finals.
Perhaps, the clash between India and Pakistan is the only sports
event when not only the players, but also the spectators and sport
lovers give their best to the match," said Muhammad Ashraf, 59, a
former cricketer and Ranji trophy selector here.
He contended any team which scores above 275 runs would be the
"Because of being a very strong team and the fact that they would be
playing before a home crowd, I think the Indian players would be
under higher tension than their rivals," Ashraf said.
B.L. Saraf, 54, another cricket lover said although India has never
won any of the previous two Mohali clashes with Pakistan, yet he is
confident that they would give their 100 percent to create history
Meanwhile, the high passions could create some problems for security
"Emotions always run high in the old city areas during
India-Pakistan sports clashes. Then there is the problem of
firecrackers among those who follow any Pakistan sports victory. An
explosive noise is usually indicative of a grenade blast or a
landmine explosion in the city as has been our experience during the
last 20 years of violence here.
"Such events sometimes startle the security men deployed on ground,"
a senior police officer, who did not want to be named, told IANS.
Some police officers, especially in old city areas, have been
requesting people not to create commotion on the streets during or
after the Mohali match on Wednesday.
However, some people say the India-Pakistan matches no longer create
the same tension.
"Despite what many believe, there is a lot of difference between the
past and the present. Because of access to satellite television,
tempers have cooled down to a greater extent," said Muzaffar Ahmad,
a professor at a local college here.
"Most locals, especially the youth, fully understand that a game is
a game and if the Indian prime minister can invite the Pakistan
president and the prime minister to Mohali, why should the locals
"Further, the tensions in Kashmir are directly dependant on the
straining of relations between India and Pakistan. If the two South
Asia neighbours finally make peace between themselves, the ultimate
beneficiaries would be us," he added.
And yet, a certain nervousness is palpable in the Valley. Who will
win? Who will play better? These questions definitely cease to
remain just academic in Kashmir when it comes to an India-Pakistan
(F. Ahmed can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)