India-Pak 2011 World Cup: Why I Cheered When Sachin Got Out at 85
Have you ever watched an India-Pakistan cricket match in the midst of Pakistani cricket fans in Pakistan? I have – and it was none other than the high-voltage 2011 World Cup semi-final.
The match was actually played at the Mohali Cricket Stadium. But the Pakistan Cricket Board, at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium, had organised a live telecast for the Pakistani fans. I was part of that audience at Gaddafi Stadium, for that historic match on 30 March 2011.
There was no room left in the packed stadium – possibly more packed than Mohali. Amid the flood lights, loud speakers and waving flags, people were chanting “Pakistan Zindabad”.
There was just one problem. I had to mimic the crowd – to cheer or abuse with them, as if on cue. I mean, I had to go silent when Virender Sehwag hit a boundary and celebrate Sachin Tendulkar’s wicket.
Tendulkar was at 85 when Shahid Afridi caught the ball in the 37th over and the entire stadium swayed with ecstasy as if Pakistan had won the World Cup. I found myself clapping and cheering as I got carried away in their celebrations.
When Harbhajan Singh bowled out Afridi on the fifth ball of 42nd over, there was an eerie silence in the audience.
The Pakistan Cricket Board had organised the screening of the match to cheer its fans up who were disappointed after the terror attack on Sri Lankan team followed by match-fixing allegations that had taken away Pakistan’s privilege to host the World Cup tournament. Otherwise, the match would have probably been taking place in Lahore.
Anyhow, the match was reaching its conclusion amid depleting hopes and Pakistan was knocked out of the World Cup just before the final.
As the match tilted in India’s favour, my video journalist Pankaj Tomar and I started thinking of leaving the grounds fearing that upset fans would charge at us.
But there was something that held us back. India won by 29 runs and our decision to stay back turned out to be a good one. Whoever met us after the match congratulated us. When they found out we had come from across the border, they wished us luck for the final.
My driver Wahid had a smile on his face, but tears in his eyes. I hugged him and said, “It’s okay, Wahid Bhai. We will win the trophy and send it across to this side.” But choking with sadness, he replied, “Koi gal ni janab, tussi jitto, assi jittey ikko baat hai.”(No problem brother, you win, we win. It’s just the same.)
After this, I saw the Pakistani media’s shocking reaction on TV. Right after losing to their “favourite” opponent, the TVs were blaring with the song “You win or you lose. We love you”.
I felt that in India, even if they didn’t throw stones at the cricketers, they would definitely hurl abuses after a loss.
Pakistan PM Yusuf Raza Geelani was watching the match in India. A 21-year-old auto driver Sayeed Kurban commented, “Geelani had gone to India to give away the match.”
Even today, I am reminded of that match before every India-Pakistan match. Two days later, India beat Sri Lanka to win the World Cup. But for me, that semi-final was the final.
(The article has been translated from Hindi Quint.)