LAHORE: Pakistan’s comprehensive win against India at the Oval on Sunday brought joy to cricket fans in Lahore after so many years, reviving the enthusiasm for the game that had somewhat sagged because of dismal performance of the team against the arch-rival many times in the past.
Cricket fever started building up as the men in green raced ahead in the Champions Trophy and reached its final.
It was a day of celebration in Lahore, as elsewhere, and people enjoyed the final of the ICC Champions Trophy in the comfort of their homes and at public places that had big screens for the big occasion.
No sooner had the national team won the final than people started spilling on to roads and danced to the beat of drums. There were fireworks too at many places. Many roads were blocked and there were whoops of joy and high-fives – scenes that reminded one of famous description of cricket craze in Pakistan by Omar Kureishi. “...I have often been asked to rationalize this cricket madness and I am not able to do so beyond saying that like a love-affair, the heart has its reason.”
“The Pakistan-India match is always a big event and our victory once again showed that the country has resilience and ability to fight back despite odds,” said cricket lover Talat Husain, who hails from Swat.
Similar sentiment was echoed by many other fans. “Whenever these two teams face each other in an important match, it seems there is nothing else in the country to talk about,” said Ali Jan, a coiffure at a Model Town market.
At Islamnagar area in Walton, many people were enjoying the cricket match on the TV installed inside a small grocery shop. There were joyous eruptions every now and then and heart-warming flutter of flags.
“It does not matter whether we win or lose against India. It’s immaterial. The real excitement is that we are playing the final match of the Champion Trophy with India,” commented Talat Naqvi, a student of the University of Engineering and Technology (UET).
Interestingly, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif wore the green shirt as a gesture to support the team. The CM was wearing the national colours while visiting former PIA chairman Chaudhry Ahmed Saeed’s place to inquire after him.
Another cricket lover, Ahmed Sultan who was watching the game on the big screen at a Model Town market said Pakistani team had not played well in the first match against India but they had given us confidence and self-respect as a nation with its outstanding performance in other matches and the final. “The trophy they will bring home is a pride for the country.”
One could gauge the level of enthusiasm from the fact that even at the time of purchases for Iftar, people seemed more interested in knowing about the score or status of the game outside shops.
“Insha Allah, Pakistan will beat India today and all prayers will be answered,” said a motorcyclist who whizzed by a shop.
One cricket lover, while speaking to Dawn, expressed his view that Pakistan and India are cricket-loving nations and politics should not be dragged in the game that one associates with leisure. It’s just a sport and should be played in that spirit.
Earlier in the day, almost all city roads, streets and parks wore a deserted look not due to scorching heat but because of the final. The youngsters had turned up to enjoy the event at big screens installed at different locations such as Model Town Link Road and Barkat Market.
Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2017