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Wednesday, Oct 16, 2019

They lose series, we lose goodwill

After historic win at Lahore, Sourav said his team would have liked a lap of honour, 'but there was no one there', writes Avirook Sen.

india Updated: Mar 26, 2004 12:26 IST
Avirook Sen
Avirook Sen

After "changing history" at the Gaddafi Stadium, Sourav Ganguly said his team would have liked to have done a lap of honour, "but there was no one there".

As the fire-crackers made their way skywards as Pakistan slipped towards defeat in the Samsung Series, most Pakistani fans made their way out. They had seen enough. The air of extreme camaraderie that hung over this cauldron of peace was too heavy. They left because they were finding it difficult to breathe.

In a country that has had the will of a few men imposed upon it for most of its history, the imposition of 'goodwill' is a novelty. But Pakistan is finding out that at the end of the day they are both impositions. On the day after, and this is a refreshing change, they're also letting you know.

“If this was Calcutta,” said an official involved with the teams, speaking only as a fan, "they'd be burning the stands.” The thought had crossed the fans in Lahore, but all you saw were smiles, congratulations, jhappian, shappian.

That's the role the average Pakistan cricket fan has been cast in this series. And truth be told, he hates it. "In a country without democracy, all you'll see is hypocrisy,” says another fan. Another fire-cracker goes up announcing the Indian win as if it was Pakistan's.

The ordinary cricket lover knows the dividing line between vandalism and passion. No fan wants the first. But when the second goes out of the game because of 'larger issues' involved, people get suspicious.

That's why there's talk of a pre-scripted series. As if this was a film starring Musharraf and Vajpayee's version of Lagaan with Bush as a consultant and the cricketers in supporting roles — despite the brilliant cricket on display.

The hype meant people who run the countries — and would love to run cricket — coming in to watch the games. Using their influence to get the best seats to view the peace process being played out. Leaving Pakistan's former Test cricketers with Rs 500 tickets, some of the cheapest seats in the house, sent to them with compliments from the Board.

Some of these men — Fazal Mahmood, Abdul Qadir — have whole enclosures named after them in the Gaddafi Stadium. And all of them returned the tickets, a few, like former Test opener Mohammad Ilyas, with notes attached which read something like “You know where to put this.” Ilyas asks the question many Pakistanis on the street are asking: "So what's the purpose of this tour?"

The correct answer, and Pakistanis let it slip when no one's looking is: "Certainly not cricket."

Sadly, some of the best cricket India and Pakistan have ever played, took place over the last fortnight or so.

First Published: Mar 26, 2004 00:02 IST

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