Love thy neighbour: Pakistani cricket fans cheer India in World Cup

Updated on Mar 26, 2015 02:20 PM IST

The cricketing rivalry between India and Pakistan is no secret. But what happens when one of the two crashes out of the most celebrated cricket tournament?

Hindustan Times | ByVishakha Saxena, New Delhi

The cricketing rivalry between India and Pakistan is no secret. But what happens when one of the two crashes out of the most celebrated cricket tournament?

Surprisingly, a growing number of Pakistanis are now saying they will back M S Dhoni’s men in blue for the semi-final on Thursday, simply because they’d like the World Cup to remain in the subcontinent.

"Since team Green is out of the world cup...India is my favorite team now," tweeted @MariamMustafa from Islamabad after Pakistan lost to Australia on Friday.

And Mustafa isn’t the only one. Scores of Pakistani cricket fans have pledged their support for India and the new-found love probably has something to do with them wanting India to teach Australia a lesson for defeating their national team.

"Go India and give Aussies a taste of their own medicine as Wahab Riaz did during Pak vs Aus QF! Good Luck!" read a comment by Salman Shakeel on Facebook.

"I will pray to ALLAH that you guys win and make this subcontinent proud. Regardless of all the differences I wholeheartedly want you guys to win. Bless you all. Regards from a Pakistani brother," read another post by Mohammad Ali Chaudhary.

Sample some more:

Many Indians cheered Pakistan during its match with Australia, especially appreciating Riaz's bowling.

"God bless you mate! You kept the spirit of cricket alive! Pleasure seeing you bowl with such aggression!" tweeted Bangalore's Siddhant Malik, tagging Riaz's official Twitter handle.

Support also poured in from India for Pakistani captain Misbah-ul-Haq who bid goodbye to cricket after the team's ouster.

"Great man great leader, Ur resolve will inspire many. Wishes from India #ThankYouMisbah #PakvsAus," tweeted Nikhil Chopra from Delhi.

Haq has placed his money on India to beat Australia.

While some Pakistani fans are supporting India out of neighbourly love, others clearly have payback on their minds.

"Now u have to take revenge for us," wrote Hashir Sehto in a Facebook comment. And for many Indians, the feeling is mutual.

"Our Sweet Bitter love- #India is now obliged & has big responsibility to take revenge of neighbour #Pakistan," read a tweet by Nitin Yadav.

India's strong performances through the tournament too played a role in generating the Pakistani support.

"Look back at the tournament and tell me a single performance of an Indian player, be it a batsman or a bowler, which was memorable or game-defining or will be part of the tournament’s highlight package. This shows how Team India relied on the collective rather than an individual," said Karachi-based journalist Abid Hussain, who's rooting for the Kiwis.

"India might well go on to win the tournament, as much as I DON’T want them to."

But things between the two fan clubs aren't all rosy. Many from both countries have kept up the jokes and jabs usually associated with the cricketing rivalry that goes back decades.

Sample this meme that is currently a viral WhatsApp favourite in India:

Text: "We are still kids. Our daddy (India) will meet you in the semifinals"

Among the many things India and Pakistan have in common, love for cricket probably figures right at the top.

Khaver Siddiqi, a Pakistani living in Chennai who uses the Twitter handle @thekarachikid, explains the rivalry as "an electrifying phenomenon". He said, "The only thing close enough that resembles it is the Super Bowl in terms of the energy scale. It is always exciting and so much is on the line."

The social media consultant is an ardent cricket fan and even tweeted a selfie with his family in Pakistani jerseys during the World Cup clash between the neighbours in February.

The two countries share an illustrious cricketing history with both having produced world champions who grew up playing in maidans and gymkhanas. Players for both countries have, over the years, taken to the 22 yards with immense passion and expressed respect for each other off the field.

While Wasim Akram called Sachin Tendulkar "the best batsman in the history of the game", Sunil Gavaskar hailed legendary batsman Javed Miandad "for possessing a rare skill of unsettling the opposition by just ‘talking’ and not having to resort to sledging".

Miandad was infamous among Indian cricket fans in the 1980s for making life difficult for bowlers.

Respect was an emotion not lost on social media as well.

As one cricket fan put it: "It's really amazing to see both Indians and Pakistanis come together".

(With inputs from Abhimanyu Kulkarni)

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