KARACHI: There were hardly any outdoor big screens for watching the Pakistan versus India match of the ICC World Cup being telecast live from Old Trafford in Manchester on Sunday as most people preferred watching the face-off within the cool confines of their homes. Still if anyone wanted to turn it into an outing, they headed to the few big screens put up indoors or in the shade.
As the match kicked off at 2.30pm, the outdoor areas where preparations to hold big crowds such as Bakhshi Square in Federal B Area or the South End Club in DHA Phase 6 remained vacant. Meanwhile, the hotels and restaurants showing the match on their big screens ‘made hay while the sun shined’ outside. The cricket helped them sell food and as the Indian batsmen scored big, the depression this side made the people order more platters of burgers, sandwiches, nachos, shakes and ice cream.
“We thought of making it a nice outing, it also being Sunday, with the wife and kids but since there isn’t anything great happening on television with the Sharmas and Kohlis hitting big hits, we can’t help but drop our gaze on the menu, which seems far more pleasing,” said Sulaiman Hafeez, the head of a family eating and not watching as much cricket as they initially intended to at a basement restaurant at Zamzama.
At the malls which had also made special arrangements for viewing of the match people also preferred window shopping or doing their grocery than watch the clash. “I am feeling superstitious. I feel if I stay glued to the screen, our team plays poorly and when I don’t show too much interest, they play well,” said Ms Farhat, a housewife with two young boys, who said that she was otherwise a big fan of cricket and usually didn’t miss any Pakistan match.
Meanwhile, the most popular big indoor screen was at the second air-conditioned auditorium at the Arts Council of Pakistan in Karachi where people from all over the city arrived at different times to enjoy the match absolutely for free.
“Well, not entirely free. I spent Rs200 getting here on a rickshaw with my two boys: Hasnain and Farhan. Then I am not sure how I dropped a Rs1,000 note somewhere,” said Sabir Hussain, who arrived at the Arts Council from Agra Taj Colony in Lyari. “And after all that here we are watching India build a big score in the first innings,” he added sounding slightly disheartened as his boys tried lifting his spirits by reminding him that Pakistan was yet to bat.
Though the Pakistan cricket team wasn’t helping bring up too many occasions to cheer and clap in the first innings, still the people were upbeat, or at least they were trying to be preferring to count Mickey Arthur’s frown lines instead of the ticking scoreboard. And then when Mohammad Amir brought up a few moments of joy with his brilliant bowling and wickets, the audience slowly came back into the game. As Hasan Ali proved to be the most expensive bowler, there was Amir rubbing balm into the wounds of the Pakistani fans.
And then as it started raining in Manchester, there were more cheers. “Rain can save us with less runs to score in less overs. God is great! When no batsman can save you then only rain can,” said one fan, Abdul Hai, who had come all the way from Korangi Crossing.
“It is always fun to watch a cricket match with a crowd so here we are. It is also better to share grief with others in case we lose today,” said Farah Naz, who was there to watch the match with her two sisters — Ayesha Naz and Aliya Kanwal — with her baby girl.
Something went wrong then and the Arts Council’s big screen went dead. As the management tried to quickly restore things, which they were able to do eventually, the audience turned to their smartphones to view the match. “I guess it is better to see our team lose face on a little phone screen rather than a big screen,” said Mohammad Ilyas, an elderly cricket enthusiast, who had been invited for lunch somewhere earlier and had only stopped at the Arts Council because he didn’t want to miss even a second of the match as his own home was still too far away at the time the game began.
Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2019