Friendship the key word, cricket the winner

Published: Friday, April 2, 2004, 20:24 [IST]
Share this on your social network:
   Facebook Twitter Google+    Comments Mail

Multan:Winning high pressure matches and winning the hearts of cricket-crazy Pakistani fans may be two altogether different propositions, but the Indian cricket team has been doing both without much ado in the three weeks they have spent so far in this country.

The public in Pakistan have not only appreciated and lauded the remarkable performances of the Indian cricketers but have also been bowled over by their conduct outside the field -- be it mingling with inmates of an orphanage or speaking at prize distribution ceremonies.

Just before embarking on the ice-breaking tour, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had urged the Indian players to not only win the matches but also the hearts of the people in Pakistan. The cricketers have responded by doing just that.

The three weeks since crossing the border have been like a dream come true for the team which was not only eager to shed the tag of 'chokers' but also prove to the cricketing world that they could win matches overseas.

The team has already created history on many fronts -- by first recording their first One-day series win and then their maiden Test victory on Pakistani soil. The dashing Virender Sehwag also etched his name in the cricketing annals by becoming the first Indian to slam a triple century.

All this has been applauded in Pakistan. Centuries from Indian batsmen have been given a standing ovation. Maiden overs by bowlers have been cheered by the boisterous crowds.

Unlike in the past, the crowds have been sporting and have appreciated good cricket, irrespective of whether it is an Indian or a Pakistani.

Ever since landing in Pakistan, a tight security ring has been thrown around the Indian cricketers but it has not dissuaded scores of autograph hunters to wait at the hotel lobbies to have a glimpse of the stars coming from across the border -- and have their prized autographs whenever possible. And the players have obliged them with broad smiles.

The scenes are more or less the same at every venue, be it the plush Pearl Continental Hotel in Lahore or the Holiday Inn in Multan.

In almost every press conference, Indian players have been asked about their visit to Pakistan and all the cricketers have gone on record praising the crowds and the warmth and hospitality they have received so far.

"The Indian cricketers and all the people who have come from India for this tour are our guests, and we want them to feel at home. The team has come to Pakistan after a long gap, and we just want to see good cricket matches. Winning and losing are part of the game," says Kamran, who owns a grocery shop near the stadium.

And true to the spirit of the "friendship series", thousands of spectators gave a standing ovation to the Indian team when it won the One-day series-decider on the night of March 24. Some of the Pakistanis even joined the Indian fans in the celebrations in the galleries.

Never before had so many Indian flags being waved from the galleries of Pakistani stadiums and never before had so many Indians crossed the border to cheer their national team on Pakistani soil. All Indian fans have gone back home with happy memories of a series that has ramifications beyond the cricket field as well.

The local papers have caught up the spirit. Sehwag's photos are flashed in all the papers after he became the first Indian triple centurion, the Indian team's historic triumph is given as much publicity as at home.

Clearly, Pakistan has thrown its arms wide open for the Indian guests. The staff in all the five star hotels where the team has been staying had been given a special briefing on how to deal with their star guests.

Indian delicacies have been specially made available in these hotels to make the cricketers feel at home. It is another matter that cricketers have preferred to go for typically Pakistani dishes instead.

Friendship seems to be the key word and Indian and Pakistan cricket fans have sat together and enjoyed every bit of the engrossing battle in the 22-yard strip so far. Cricket appears to be the winner, inside the ground and outside.

So, it comes as little surprise when Pakistan coach Javed Miandad hugs each and every Indian player after the memorable Test triumph in Multan, a city which is steeped in history. Or for that matter, when the Indian team goes and spends time with Pakistani kids at an orphanage home immediately after their hour of glory.

Write Comments