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Why Chennai cricket fans are cheering for Pakistan in T20 series vs World XI

Chennai cricket fans, known for their admiration of quality regardless of the sides, are for Pakistan cricket team in the Independence Cup series vs ICC World XI. Former Indian cricket team pacer Lakshmipathy Balaji explains the reason

cricket Updated: Sep 15, 2017 20:21 IST
Somshuvra Laha
Pakistan cricket team players celebrate during their Independence Cup T20 match against ICC World XI at the Gaddafi Cricket Stadium in Lahore.
Pakistan cricket team players celebrate during their Independence Cup T20 match against ICC World XI at the Gaddafi Cricket Stadium in Lahore.(AFP)

As much as Chennai is excited about the return of ‘pyajama’ cricket to Chepauk after two years, they have also kept a tab on Pakistan cricket team’s return to the international scene. The number of times Pakistan’s ongoing series against the World XI kept coming up in conversations with people told of their cricket connect with India’s arch rivals.

Read more | Pakistan vs ICC World XI, Independence Cup 3rd T20 live updates | Live Scores

After all, this is the same place where the touring Pakistan team was given a standing ovation by spectators at the MA Chidambaram Stadium when they upset India by 12 runs in 1999. The match, and what happened after, remains one of the best examples of sportsmanship in the gentleman’s game.

Former Indian cricket team pacer Lakshmipathy Balaji, who is nothing short of a star in Pakistan for his ever-present smile during the 2004 tour, summed up the feelings best.

“Chennai people understand the game better than any other audience in India,” Balaji told HT. “They understand the details. It’s not that they are coming and having fun. That’s the only reason visitors in Chennai are not booed.

“I think it’s unfortunate Pakistan lost a lot of home games,” added the former Tamil Nadu player. “ It’s a big relief for the Pakistan crowd and the cricket fraternity.

“They are a competitive team and I’m sure it will help bring back memories of how good the team was in the 90s and 80s,” said Balaji, who still remembers in detail how Wasim Akram and Saqlain Mushtaq stole India’s thunder on the last day of the 1999 Test.

“It was a very nail-biting match. We were all praying when Sachin was playing despite a back injury. Everything changed in the last 90 minutes and it was a very good effort from Pakistan,” he said.

Chennai was stunned but they didn’t forget to applaud the winners. “No (untoward) incidents happen because the crowds are always friendly and enthusiastic. At the same time they will come to support India,” he said.

Pakistan fans have been calling for cricket ties with India during this series with the World XI, but Balaji said that will take more time.

“It is up to the government (to decide) whether India-Pakistan matches should happen. It’s not that easy. The relationship should get better otherwise it won’t be that great,” he said.