Oval connection

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1960

How the high-octane India Pakistan World Cup Cricket match brought two friends from the two countries together

How would you react if you were told an Indian Hindu family were the guests of a Pakistani Muslim family in Adelaide for two days during the adrenaline-pumping weekend of the India Vs Pakistan Cricket World Cup Match at Adelaide Oval?

In a logical world of menace it could sound irrational especially when both the families are patriotic, and have no place for compromise on what they expect from their cricket teams.

It all started when I messaged DrRehan Hassan three weeks before the India Vs Pakistan Cricket World Cup Match on 15 February, and informed him that we, the whole big family of five which included my parents, wife DrRuchika and daughter Pulak were travelling to Adelaide to witness the game of the year.  We reserved the accommodation near West Beach which was only 8km from the Oval. Choice of beach front accommodation was obvious as South Australian beaches are far superior to Victorian back waters. However, DrRehan insisted that we shall stay at his place in the hills instead. At first I was hesitant but surrendered to his persuasion and agreed to confirm our attendance to him following my discussion with my parents and Ruchika.

I was looking forward to this weekend in Adelaide since March 2014 when ICC World Cup tickets came online and I could not get any. Apparently tickets were sold out in less than 20 minutes.  The ‘mammothness’ of this match could be understood by a simple fact that the tickets were selling at the premium 10 to 15 times more than the normal price in the grey online market.

The other analogy which still overwhelms me is that this was the sixth time in history when India and Pakistan were facing off each other in the World Cup. It is common knowledge that the sizes of the cricket stadiums around the world are restrictive and cannot accommodate more than 40,000-60,000 people. Based on this it was safe to assume that no more than 300,000 people in this almighty universe would have watched the last five India Pakistan World Cup face offs ever. To make it more quantitative, only 0.02% of population of India Pakistan combine, that is 1 lucky curry man in 5000 people, would have managed to see the fierce battle of prestige in flesh.

This game in Adelaide was our opportunity to become a part of sporting history and the passion was pumping through our arteries.  On the eve of the do-or-die cricket battle, the white city of Adelaide was all grappled in blue and green. The mojo of Indian sub-continent and romance of Valentine’s Day fused the hot evening in a wonderful carnival with thousands of people around Rundle Street and the city square.

We reached at DrRehan’s residence at 9:30 PM and we were one of the many visitors that night. We were the only Indian supporters in that 1000 sqmt house. BBQ with the smooth smell of charcoal in his backyard was mouth-watering. To my parent’ relief DrRehan’s wife who is also a General Practitioner cooked the whole separate vegetarian meal.

This level of understanding and humility touched all of us but did not distract us from supporting our team in blue.

The next morning both families watched the match from different stands and supported their teams. More than 41,000 people were in the oval and probably 75% of them were supporting India to win. However, I am more than sure that only a handful of spectators were interested in the game. Most of them were interested in the result.  Fate was written 23 years ago when India beat Pakistan for the first time in the world cup and till the day nobody managed to turn the history around.  Pakistan was looking for an opportunity to upset their 1.2 billion opponents and Indians were in no mood to let the winning streak slide of their hands.  History Maintained. India won by 76 runs.

After the game, DrRehan picked us up as from the town centre. That night at his place, we all end up chatting till very early in the morning. Next morning when we were on our way back to Melbourne the thought was prevalent that if we could maintain our friendships being people of different religion why can’t others.

You do not need a Bodhi tree to realise that understanding for others, and humility are the essence for maintaining harmony and long lasting friendships. Thin line between two countries was formed on basis of religion and politics. The cricket match between India and Pakistan has been looked as a war where it should be used as bringing two nations together. In our case it did. It helped both of us meet after seven years.

The writer is Director of Watervale Dental Pty Ltd and Prudent Health Pty Ltd.

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