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The Battle of Mohali

The Battle of Mohali

I was watching a cricket chat show the other day, which had Harsha Bhogle, Tony Greig and Sunil Gavaskar discussing about the World Cup. This was during the quarter-finals, when Tony Greig made a comment, something on the likes of ‘I feel really pumped up about India-Pakistan; it’s almost like the Ashes.’ Before he had finished, Harsha was quick to cut into him, ‘No, Tony, it’s definitely NOT the Ashes. The Ashes are a polite discussion, with the waiters asking the people involved ‘Do you want more tea, Sir’? compared to the rivalry that is India-Pakistan’.

I won’t try to hype it up, because it really doesn’t need it. If you’ve been watching cricket, you’ll just know. Just know. It’s India vs Pakistan. On 30th March, 2011. At Mohali. For a place in the World Cup 2011 final.

Despite all the talk of peace and unity (the Indian and Pakistani PM’s will be watching the match together) and taking it as ‘another’ match, don’t be fooled. India-Pakistan is never a ‘take-it-easy’ match. Yes, sports and politics should really not be mixed, but that doesn’t work over here. Not in a matchup like this.

It’s very simple actually. Despite whatever India and Pakistan might have achieved in this WC, the team losing will immediately be labelled failures. Everything else they’ve done till now will be discounted. India does not want to lose to Pakistan. Pakistan does not want to lose to India. It’s a question of their pride.

There’s just too much tension still simmering over. Despite a period of peace between 2003-2007, the 2007 Mumbai attacks have set it all back. India and Pakistan are back on the same cold terms, they used to share before 2003.

On the field, they’ll all try to be normal. Dhoni will be his ‘Captain cool’ persona, Sachin will be just Sachin, Afridi’s gonna be the dasher he always is and Bhajji will be the typical feisty Punjabi. But don’t let it fool you. There’s gonna be pressure. Heart-stopping, spine-tingling pressure. The sort of pressure which can make a sane guy play the rashest of strokes. Or drop the easiest of catches.

Just ask Miandad. Or better still, Chetan Sharma who got biffed for six by Miandad in the final of the AustralAsia cup, to let Pakistan secure an unlikely victory. Or Sachin Tendulkar, who despite being the great he is, admits he couldn’t sleep on the nights leading up to the India-Pakistan match in the 2003 World Cup.

One of the neighbours will party deeply into the night. The other will mourn for the next four years

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