February 25, 2021
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'A State Of Bilious Delirium'

'A State Of Bilious Delirium'

Mukul Kesavan in the Economic Times:


There's nothing good about a one-day international between India and Pakistan. Make that an ODI that's also a World Cup semi-final, and the awfulness scales up an order of magnitude. Growing up in the late sixties and seventies, I used to hear hipsters say without self-consciousness or shame, that this or that person or thing gave off bad vibes.

Well, an India- Pakistan limited-overs match is a giant tuning fork that makes the subcontinent's air thrum with malign vibrations.

One of the best things that ever happened to Indo-Pak cricket was the death of the Sharjah one-day tamasha. It was sport only in the sense that cock-fighting or bull-baiting or the Roman circus were sporting contests: it was blood sport without the blood, and it was sustained by an excitement born of desperation and fear and loathing.

Mihir Sharma in the Indian Express:

One of the most read posts on Twitter was from the tennis player Sania Mirza, who caused a similar, if smaller, stir last year when she married Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik. @Mirzasania wrote: “I support India and @realshoaibmalik will support Pakistan as usual!!the war is on..lol..hahah”, which was perhaps, after discounting punctuation, on the cheerfully harmless side, war metaphor or not.

The most amusing SMS around, though, combined pitch-perfect geo-location with just enough menace: “If Pakistan wins the semis, they go on to play the Shiv Sena in Mumbai for the finals.”

Rahul Bhattacharya in the Hindustan Times

Sport has a way of delivering these scripts. One might argue that the perfect end would have been a title fight at the Wankhede on Saturday. But just as well for that. Much better for this game to be hosted by Punjabis, whose sentimentality in the matter of Pakistan may balm some of the hysterical jingoism going around.

In Mumbai, the site of 26/11, home of the Senas, the game might have been swallowed by threats and fears and a nasty nationalism. It is the last thing that two limited but thrilling sides deserve in a surprising cricket World Cup. I hope Shoaib plays and Sachin takes first strike.

So perhaps fitting to end with what Mukul Kesavan on Twitter described as "the sharpest piece of writing this tournament has produced", Imran Yusuf on espncricinfo: India v Pakistan: a fantasy, published just before the India-Australia match:

When other men talk there is always a dark, primal subtext: Who does better with the ladies? Who's got more money? Who would win in a fight? Who's read Proust? When the Pakistani and the Indian talked, the unspoken subtext was always the next match. The last match. All the matches from the past and into the eternal future.

To their compatriots and their wives, they would mouth off at will.

The Pakistani would say Shoaib had Sachin's number and the number was first ball. The Indian would say Sachin had Shoaib's number and the number was six six six. The Indian would say Pakistan had never beaten them in a World Cup. The Pakistani would say Pakistan has the better of India in Test and ODI wins. Both would imply in Hindi or Urdu that the other side had incestuous relations with their sisters.

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