They won, Pakistan. But so did we. And so did South Asia. Win, we did, big.
A region scarred by war and terror, poverty and instability, yet also rich in history and landscapes, the true beauty of South Asia is often ignored, or undiscovered yet. Overshadowed by the brutal acts of a few, the region continues to grow in numbers and potential. And in such a backdrop, cricket brings hope, cricket brings glory and above all, a sense of unity.
I’m not a cricketing analyst. I only watch cricket and cheer our team on, often watching out for the ‘good looking’ lot. But, cricket keeps me happy. It gives me something to talk about, be it the kane paras, the bokkus, the finest catches or Sanga’s words in Sinhalese.
I know Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan haven’t been the best of neighbours. But, where cricket is concerned all these nations have much in common. True all of us have had our fair share of glory days and embarrassments, but, there’s more. There is, among the guys of this cricketing region, a hunger to show the world our true worth; a sense of urgency, a desire to put aside the dirty wars and politics and play the game.
When in 1996, Australia and West Indies refused to play here in Colombo, India and Pakistan came to our rescue. They played a friendly match here and portrayed to the world that there’s nothing much to fear. Remember Arjuna’s words just before he lifted the trophy, his eyes aglow? “Thank you Azah, Thank you Wasim”, he said, during the post match presentation. To us, high on victory that day, this probably didn’t matter too much. But, looking back, it was a deed beyond gratitude. And 13 years, 3 world cups and 2 Twenty-20s later, our cricketers still practice in the same, or perhaps even worse, conditions. The Lahore incident proved just that.
Yet, through all this, cricket has lived on. Our cricketers have brought glory. And this in itself – the idea that cricket can be played even amidst all these hardships – I believe, gives them strength and hope.
The ugly side of the game will continue in the days to come. Angry spectators will keep on pelting stones. The protesters will carry slogans. It will be a while till the guns are silenced. They will say they chuck. And contracts will be the subject of the media.
But, all in all, one thing is certain – the bands will play, the fans will wave and the game will go on.