As defending champions India were winning the battle of nerves at a frenzied Adelaide Oval, some fans found their way behind enemy lines, cheering on the Men in Blue as a deafening silence enveloped on the sea of green.
Officials had largely segregated seating for fans of the two countries — the norm in international sport — but a few supporters were seated in stands allotted to Pakistan.
Sitting in aisle 133, 27-year-old Satbir Singh Kohli was vigorously waving the tricolour amid the green brigade as India inched closer to crushing their arch-rival in the high-stakes game. Every boundary hit by his namesake Virat Kohli or a brilliant stop by Ravindra Jadeja were cheered with lusty slogans of ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’, reverberating in a stand gone deathly silent.
“I knew this stand was for Pakistani supporters and intentionally bought tickets from my Pakistani friend. I wanted to sit with the Pakistanis and tease them,” said the Melbourne-based businessman.
Early on in the match, though, he wasn’t let off easily for his cheek. “When Virat got out, the stand erupted in celebration. A Pakistani fan next to me shouted, ‘Jao, ghar vapis jao’ (Go back home). Your team is finished,” he said.
But as India’s pace battery turned the screws on Pakistan’s faltering batting, Satbir found his voice back.
“After Pakistan lost its sixth wicket, I shouted, ‘Bar bar mara hai, har bar marengey’ (we have repeatedly defeated you, we will defeat you every time). They all went quiet. Their silence was the biggest joy of my life,” Satbir told HT.
He wasn’t the only one. Two young Indian fans, dressed in Team India’s blue jersey, were seated in the third row of aisle 132, their slogans growing louder as gloom descended on the raucous army in green. Two security guards kept watch.
“It was great enjoyment to irritate thousands of Pakistanis. I was excited after Kohli completed his century. I shouted, ‘Beat them a sixth time, beat them a sixth time’. The entire stand was looking at me. I was screaming like I was mad but it was fun,” said Anant Desai, an IT professional from Brisbane.
Malini, a hotel management student, and her friend also celebrated the fall of every Pakistani wicket and loudly backed each Indian appeal, though seated in a row filled with fans from across the border. “I felt strong, waving the tricolour and shouting for India. This is the experience of my life,” she said.