Blue, green together in rare bonding
There were two very interesting sights on Sunday, early into this fourth one-day international. Both took place in the packed Abdul Qadir enclosure. The first was when Shahid Afridi slashed at an Irfan Pathan delivery to be caught at point and numerous green-shirted fans went up to applaud the youngster.
The second was exactly one over later, when Yousuf Youhana whacked Balaji through the covers. Among those cheering the elegant shot were those waving the Indian Tricolour. It was a heady sight, seeing Indian and Pakistani flags being waved alongside by fans in blue and green. Even at the end, when India were four wickets down, fans kept waving the Indian flags, running around from the Waqar Younis to the Wasim Akram enclosure. The fans at least, were fairly pleased with their short experience of Pakistan.
But they've been greeted with unbelievable hospitality. On Saturday night, as hotel after hotel in Pakistan filled up with fans from across the border, Pakistanis were getting emotional. "What an amazing thing it could be if India and Pakistan had a united team in cricket and hockey, we would be unbeatable," Tariq saab told us as we watched the excited mixing of Indians and Pakistanis.
And on Sunday morning, there was Kavita from Delhi, dressed in a salwar-kameez with a tricolour dupatta. "I had it specially dyed for this game," said the lady, here on a three-day visa. "It's so amazing to be here, the people are so hospitable."
The thought has been echoed by dozens of other Indian fans these past couple of days. Sanjay from Bangalore was having a long chat with an Elite Force commando outside the stadium, asking him if everyone had "no fear" on their T-shirts.
Two youngsters from Tamil Nadu, standing in line for the Fazal Mahmood enclosure, were deep in conversation with a Pakistani couple from Dubai, who said their parents were originally from Chennai.
Once inside, there was a series of waves with Indians and Pakistanis moving in perfect sync and happy abandon. Sachin Tendulkar's start at the bowling run-up was expectedly greeted by loud cheers from all corners of the field. Tendulkar by now, would not be surprised, being the undisputed crowd favourite in Pakistan too. The cheers of course, reached a crescendo when Tendulkar got whacked for a flat six over mid-wicket by Inzamam-ul Haq. But then, there's bound to be some bias!
From the Indian side, in addition to the stream of people who had stood in line for hours outside the Pakistan High Commission to get their visas, there were others. There were politicians, industrialists and other captains of industry. Some of Bollywood's jet-set were there as well. Sunil Shetty looked very pleased when his profile was flashed on the giant screen and there was a huge cheer from the spectators.
Indian actors and actresses are hugely popular in Pakistan and if you're from Mumbai, it's not uncommon to be excitedly asked by a Pakistani if you see Shah Rukh Khan walking around the streets.
Mandira Bedi --- dressed in a light, white cotton shirt --- was lending vocal support to the Indian cause even as Inzamam was hammering pal Yuvraj. Namesake Pooja Bedi, described by local media as starlet-turned-journalist, was spotted too.
All in all, it was a carnival atmosphere around the Gaddafi on Sunday and really, even across Lahore. Many Indian fans spent Saturday roaming around Lahore in special day tours and by the time they came to the ground, most were happily content with their experiences.
Whatever the result, they'll hopefully go back in the same mood.
Enter your email to get our daily newsletter in your inbox
- Sasikala was a close associate of former Tamil Nadu chief minister, late J Jayalalithaa.
- The MLA said she walked on the request of the villagers, who were aggrieved over the elephant herd trampling vegetable plantations and paddy fields. The herd of elephants had also damaged a local temple.