Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 July 2019

Two nations unite over the gentleman’s game

Despite antagonism between India and Pakistan, both share a love of cricket

India's captain Virat Kohli during the Cricket World Cup match between India and Pakistan in Manchester. AP Photo
India's captain Virat Kohli during the Cricket World Cup match between India and Pakistan in Manchester. AP Photo

In cricket, as in politics, dreams can be made and broken. As India and Pakistan faced off for their seventh World Cup fixture, an estimated one billion viewers tuned in around the world. But the match represented much more than a mere sporting event. Both countries are passionate about the sport, which has become a symbol for all that unites and divides the two nations. In India, the gentleman’s game has been played since the 1700s. In Pakistan, the prime minister is a former international cricketing star, whose performance against India in 1992 is still the stuff of legend. Imran Khan was one of those riveted to the game yesterday, even tweeting his national team tactical suggestions.

His advice – to “give your best and fight till the last… then accept whatever the result like true sportsmen” could just as equally apply to the 72-year stand-off between India and Pakistan, which has often spilled into warfare, hatred and antagonism. Earlier this year, an attack on a military convoy in Pulwama on the Kashmiri border left 40 Indian soldiers dead and sparked airstrikes on Pakistan. Since then, an uneasy peace has been maintained. Yet both countries share languages, food and heritage – not to mention a love of cricket. At Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, UK, fans with heritage on both sides of the border rubbed shoulders, cheered their teams and shared traditional snacks. In the UAE, both nationalities can be seen at weekends, uniting to play impromptu games on patches of vacant land. And let’s not forget the cricket diplomacy of 2011, when then Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh invited his Pakistani counterpart, Yousuf Raza Gilani, to join him to watch the World Cup semi-final, sending a powerful message of harmony to the world.

Yesterday’s fervour on and off the pitch provided a moment to remember that there is more that unites the two countries than divides them. Regardless of the outcome of the game, the zeal and passion that brought together a global community in support of their sporting idols should be a driving force to resolve those differences.

Updated: June 16, 2019 07:28 PM

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