July 26, 2020
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My Neighbour, My Foe

Pakistanis rue their defeat in a match worth more than the Cup

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My Neighbour, My Foe
What a day it proved to be for Pakistan! Events were dominated by the constant shelling and firing by the Indian and Pakistani armies on the LoC and a pathetic showing by the Pakistani cricket team against the Indians in Manchester. Pakistan had recently moved up to the number two spot in the World Cup rankings. The Indians, on their part, had put up a poor performance throughout the Cup, and a loss to Pakistan would have left them bereft of even the feeblest of chances to make a comeback in the championship. But, the Indians were destined to live another day.

Pakistanis throughout the country were glued to their television and radios sets. All work came to a standstill. People either pleaded ill-health, an emergency in the family or just sat around unabashedly in their workplaces listening to the commentary.

After a mere 15 overs of the second innings, grandparents, their children and grandchildren from Peshawar to Karachi were in deep depression. Salma Raza, an 85-year-old great-grandmother, who chose to come to Pakistan in '47, was constantly on the phone with her brother, a retired foreign service officer. Bewailing Pakistan's quick crumble, these octogenarians had tears in their eyes. 'It was indeed painful to watch our young cricketers developing sprained fingers (Inzamam), sprained ankles to pulled hamstring muscles (Razzaq). Our side was showing a fitness level of 16-year-olds at their first cricket tournament,' she said.

Some just couldn't bear the tension. A journalist with a leading newsmagazine in Karachi, a strong personality known for her championing of women's rights, reportedly turned to her daughter and said: 'Please give me a Lexotinal (an anti-anxiety drug), my nerves are shot. I'm feeling really low.' She subsequently turned off the match as Pakistan came out to bat and watched a more relaxing soap opera. Nobody else was allowed to switch channels either. She, predictably, had a bad night's sleep.

Post-match, an ex-Army general, based in Rawalpindi, known for his high degree of patriotic sentiment, offered his services to personally escort the team back to Pakistan after the World Cup is over. Needless to say, his intentions seemed a bit malevolent.

He was probably right. The team will most certainly need an escort,most of the callers in a programme on the famous FM-100 radio channel vowed to beat the players on their arrival at the airport. 'First of all, I think they should be thrown out of the airplane. Even if they reach Pakistan after that, the people should beat the shit out of them as they have embarrassed the whole nation,' said a determined Naeem Akhtar, a young clerk with the Karachi Development Authority.

But some advise restraint. 'The worst thing about us is that we get so charged, especially when we play with India,that we just don't accept defeat. We should take it as a sport and in any sport, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose,' said Rahila Zohair, a cricket fan.

However, the eminently reasonable Rahila is among the few odd ones out. In Sanghar, a small town in the interiors of Sindh, where TV sets were blaring, villagers were heard vowing not to bother watching the World Cup any longer. The debacle with Bangladesh was humiliating enough, but losing to India...!!

Sheeraz Haider, a young cricketer who has played for the Pakistan under-19 side, was riled more by the players' attitude. 'One always loses some matches when playing cricket. It's only natural. But the kind of over-confidence shown by our seniors is totally unacceptable. How can Wasim Akram say that it is a practice match. This set the tone for the whole game, and the Pakistani players took it so easy that it looked like they were playing against a county side and not their arch-rivals.'

At a time when a lot of bad news is pouring in, whether it's to do with the economy or the political front, many feel that Pakistan needed this victory to give the people a much needed boost. 'Pakistan is a country which has had very little good news recently. The people desperately needed something to believe in and to bring them a little bit of well-deserved joy. But, alas, our cricket team, like all our other institutions seems to have let us down, publicly, internationally and worst of all against our biggest rival,' said Shehzad Ahmed, a banker. Even if the Pakistanis get something to cheer about later in the Cup, this loss will still rankle.

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