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India-Pak fans prepare for big clash

Exactly 180 days after the Mumbai attacks, India and Pakistan face each other in a game of cricket. A lot has happened since then, with the World Cup being ‘robbed of’ or ‘rightly denied’ to Pakistan – depending on who you want to believe – almost to add to the already ever-increasing hype to the game at the Oval on Wednesday, Arjun Sen reports.

cricket Updated: Jun 02, 2009 01:39 IST
Arjun Sen

Exactly 180 days after the Mumbai attacks, India and Pakistan face each other in a game of cricket. A lot has happened since then, with the World Cup being ‘robbed of’ or ‘rightly denied’ to Pakistan – depending on who you want to believe – almost to add to the already ever-increasing hype to the game at the Oval on Wednesday.

The England and Wales Cricket Board have already taken ‘extra’ measures for the security for the game and the London Metropolitan Police may have been asked to ‘be on the ball’, but for the people who will fill up the ground, the game is just another match.

“I think there is this fear that the tension between the countries might just spill over on to the field, but if you ask me, it’s unfounded, the fear,” said Siddharth Singh, a third-generation Brit Indian.

“Look, a British Asian’s outlook towards Pakistan is very, very different from that of someone born and brought up in India. For us, an attack in the sub-continent is just a five-minute news clip, it doesn’t affect our lives, like it does yours.

“We didn’t look at our Pakistani friends with hatred after 26/11, in fact, it was us Asians, as a whole, who are so often branded ‘terrorists’ by the rest of the world.”

So, was it the same feeling within the Pakistanis in London? A trip to Green Street, West Ham, and the answer was an emphatic yes.

“It is just a cricket match, nothing else,” said Kashif Ahmed, a British citizen of Pakistani origin.

“No one is condoning what happened in Lahore and Mumbai, but that doesn’t mean that you make Pakistan the pariah of world cricket.

“There are much, much more issues to resolve, and whether the two countries should play cricket, is the least of them.”

The game at the Oval sold-out in record time, if the England and Wales Cricket Board is to be believed, and both Singh and Ahmed made sure they got themselves the hottest ticket of the season well in advance.

“I stood in the queue from 4 o’clock in the morning for a ticket,” said Ahmed. “It might be a warm-up, but believe me, neither team wants to lose this one.”

Singh agrees. “I want India to win, not because it will show how superior we are, but just because it will let me have the bragging rights over my Pakistani friends.”