March 31, 2020
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'Play The Game To Fight The Goons'

Pakistani fans are all spunk as they see India on the backfoot

'Play The Game To Fight The Goons'
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There is an odd mix of fear and enthusiasm on the streets of Pakistan. People, by and large, support the upcoming cricket tour to India. But many are apprehensive about the guarantees given by the Indian government for the safety of their heroes.

I hate Bal Thackeray and his goons, and I don't want him to feel even for a second that we did not come out of fear, says Shaukat Mahmood, a salesman. Adds banker Moinuddin Khan: Even if we lose, we will be defeating lunatics like Thackeray by going there.

Many realise that the bjp-led coalition has painted itself into a corner by allowing the Shiv Sena to dictate terms to it. As Hammad Ghaznavai, a businessman, says: Our team should go to achieve the moral high ground. If things worsen and Pakistan returns without playing a single ball, it will be politically beneficial for us.

An opinion poll conducted on the telephone by the mass-circulation Urdu Daily Jang in five cities showed that a vast majority of people are in favour of the tour. And most respondents felt that a cancellation would be a victory for Hindu extremists.

Unless we go there and prove, even at the cost of defeat, that we'll not let any extremist ruin the game of cricket, threats of this nature will continue, says Farooq Memon, an officer. But many take the threats seriously and fear for the safety of the players. Says Shiraz Haider, who played recently for the under-19 team: The players will not be able to perform fully well under this pressure. And even if one player gets hurt in any incident inside or outside the stadium, it will mean an end to cricket between the two sides in either country for a long time to come.

But the chattering classes are sure cricket is the best way forward. Says political analyst Imtiaz Alam: Cricket can do much to cast off some of the inherited prejudices plaguing relations between the two countries. Adds Dr Akbar Zaidi, a Karachi intellectual: The tour will lead to better economic and political understanding.

Shorn of the hype, though, everybody realises Akram & Co are going to play the game, not to wage war. As sports writer Zafar Samdani says: If both the countries can play hockey series every year and if Indian golfers can come here, what is wrong in playing cricket there? After all, it's just a sportand in sport it doesn't matter if the other country has an atomic bomb or not.

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