August 14, 2020
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Beastly Tales

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Beastly Tales
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On March 12, Calcutta was rife with rumours. The biggest was that the Indian team wouldn't travel to Lahore once they made it to the finals. That a hush-hush delegation had gone to the Australians, presumed winners of the second semi-final encounter, to gauge their willingness to accept a change of venue to an Indian city. The amount that had been offered as bait to the Pakistani authorities—one million pounds. The other rumour was that Sanjay Manjrekar would sit the match out and Ashish Kapoor would come in his place and he would open the bowling. Clearly, the Indians were taking a leaf out of New Zealand's innovation in the 1992 World Cup.

The third rumour was that Taj Bengal, the hotel where the two teams were putting up, had run out of roses as Azharuddin had sent all of them to Sangeeta Bijlani.

In the event, Lahore was not to be. But would the Indian team really have faced the kind of hostility everybody says they would have? Well, if the celebration of the Pakistanis after India's loss is any indication, yes. After the loss, the Ghaddafi stadium at Lahore, reportedly, switched on its floodlights and had a band playing an obscene song to celebrate the Lankan victory. Says an Islamabad-based Indian journalist: "If Pakistan had lost to some other team the reception of the Indian team would have been different."

While the Pakistanis certainly have a grudge against Australia after the bribery allegations, whether that resentment would have been strong enough to overcome their still raw disappointment over their team's defeat against India is still debatable. What wasn't, however, was rumourmongering in Pakistan itself. The biggest one, on the day after the Lankan victory, was that something had happened to Mohammed Azharuddin. That the Hindus had gone and done him in.

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