It may not have sunk in yet, but the country has sunk — quite literally — thanks to the pouring heavens.
The deluge for the ages isn’t a solo calamity. It is running parallel to the year-long hostilities out of the political arena where things have escalated to the point where a former prime minister is facing a terrorism charge.
And long before both the deluge and the political crisis were giving us sleepless nights, there existed the monster of an economic turmoil that still lurks in the background.
For a country mired in three totally different but equally scary kinds of crises, it must take a truly special and mesmerising distraction to take their mind off.
Enter a Pakistan vs India cricket blockbuster that will take place this Sunday as part of Asia Cup 2022. On match day, the political pugilists could jab their way into a proverbial flood of economic challenges and even then no one would care.
So what makes this particular fixture so special? All of this:
Cricket hungry nations
The spirit of cricket rules the people of Pakistan and India like nothing else. On the day of the match, schedules are cleared, work days are cut short, phones are turned off — all to not miss a single ball.
Passionate fans flock at screen points and dominate spaces in either green or blue, depending on which side of the border you look. This week should be no different. Watch them relish the pains and pleasures of making it in time at a jam-packed Dubai stadium and declare the entire evening a de-facto holiday.
Rich history of memorable clashes
The two nations do not just depend on off-field political tensions for on-field entertainment. They also combine to deliver a high quality cricket product that can last in the fans’ memories for decades to come.
For instance, at the halfway mark of their 2016 Asia Cup clash, Pakistani supporters had virtually given up on a green-tinged Sher-e-Bangla track as their beloved team had posted just 83 on the scoreboard.
Meanwhile, the arch-rival Indian camp cheered the team’s cracking bowling display. But resignation turned to magic as Mohammad Amir pulled off a blinder of a spell, knocking over India’s top order like it was nobody’s business. In short, Pakistan’s fast-bowling flair brought an entire qoum back to life, even if the game was eventually lost.
A year later, a 180-run thumping win in the Champions Trophy final served as a long-overdue gift to deserving Pakistani fans, while India settled scores in the 2019 World Cup.
This endless loop of excitement and anguish has no equivalent.
It is worth pointing out that every Indo-Pak fixture is a festival in itself, and Sunday’s fixture will be no exception. Watch entire neighbourhoods and localities get pulled together for an evening to root for national stars: from the terrific Rizwan and young speedsters to the likes of Kohli, Yadav, Sharma — you name it.
Hey, who is bowling first? What would be a good score? Gotta break this partnership!! Just hear those whispers, and relish the mother of all cricket competitions.
Seventy-five years of rivalry is quite a sight to take in. In cricket, that rivalry is complete with a multigenerational focus on what it means to secure this “must-win” fixture.
Those multigenerational vibes were on full show in the India-Pakistan T20 World Cup clash last year, when a young Pakistani line-up razed India, dashing the hopes of millions across the border to earn the love and prayers of all back home.
For India, the sentiments are no less potent — from what was once Tendulkar’s trademark front foot punch to what is now a slice of Rohit’s willow — all contributions are enough to throw an electric crowd into a deafening chorus.
But the beauty of the game lies in the overbearing effect of defeat on Indian and Pakistani supporters. It weighs on you like a rock on the chest. “Yaar bas India ko hara do, baki sab maaf” (Just defeat India, leave the rest). Such thoughts will be aplenty on both sides this Sunday.
The Dubai International Cricket Stadium — venue of Sunday’s blockbuster contest — offers a fitting tribute to the desire of diehard fans. Impassioned Indian and Pakistani supporters haven’t witnessed a single bilateral series for nearly a decade, let alone one on home soil.
That leaves it to venues such as Dubai to command support from a powerful expatriate community, host notable celebrities, and give volume to budding influencers that collectively lead a cricket-loving build-up like no other.
India have a point to prove this week as their fans are still smarting from the horrors of the 10-wicket World Cup thumping.
The expectation is that India’s acclaimed top order will finally show some teeth against their opponents’ remarkable pace attack. For Pakistani fans, more of the usual would be required. Fakhar’s bottom-handed punches, Babar and Rizwan’s admirable teamwork, and some early scalps should be enough to keep the party going in the stands!
India-Pakistan fixtures are usually enough to sell out stadiums in a jiffy, and a contest laced in Asia Cup’s “desi” flavour would add even more to its appeal.
As the tournament’s title implies, there is an exceedingly strong sense of domination about who commands Asia.
From the dusty pitches of Bangladesh that saw the legendary Mohammed Yusuf seal Pakistan’s victory with a glorious century, to Virat Kohli’s unforgettable 183 that knocked the greens out cold, raging Indo-Pak sentiments have struck the tournament’s spirit like lightning.
For those watching at home, one of the most admirable aspects of viewership is the infinite margin for speculation and commentary. Particularly with afterwork gatherings and family reunions centring on a highly action-packed contest, relishing the prospect of raining sixes, partnerships, big wickets and an odd screamer in the field.
Taken together, a traditional rivalry marked by decades of light-hearted banter, clinical defiance, and unwavering love for the anthem make India-Pakistan fixtures must-watch TV.
Header illustration: Allies Interactive/ Shutterstock