I had the opportunity to watch both the the India-Pak Sharjah games live
in a movie theatre in Chicago. The telecast was organised by an Indian
group in Chicago who rented the movie hall overnight with a satellite
dish and projection equipment. The movie hall wasn't all that great, but
watching live cricket on the big screen was a different experience
I have been a cricket fan for a long time and would never miss watching
a cricket game which was shown on TV (mostly in India). As an Indian,
I'd support my country against others, but would enjoy watching cricket
irrespective of the result of the game. A day of thrilling cricket was
all that mattered to me. However, after watching the Ind-Pak games in
Chicago, I have a completely different view of how these things are seen
in other parts of the world.
About 70% of the people in the theatre (out of approx. 200) were
Pakistani supporters. One of them had carried a huge Pakistani flag
inside the theatre and used to run around with it and wave it all over
at the drop of a hat (or an Indian wicket). At one stage, he climbed on
to the theatre stage and started waving the flag on the projected
image!!! The crowd was rowdy and disgusting. They were shouting ***
abuses at the Indian players (without caring about the fact that there
were a few Indians present in the hall) and would scream "Pakistan
Zindabad" (Long Live Pakistan) and "Allah-O-Akbar" every now and then.
It was then that I realised that it was not just a game of cricket that
I was watching. I had never seen such a partisan crowd that was willing
to bring in nationalism and religion in an otherwise simple game being
played against two countries (Yes, and I don't support Bal Thackeray).
It was almost as if these Pakistani supporters had a long lasting grudge
against the Indians and that they were taking it all out during the
telecast. It was almost as if this was a way for them to take revenge
against the Indians for their defeat in the 1971 war.
I had never felt so disgusted while watching a cricket game in my life.
That was a simple game of cricket that could have been taken much more
lightly. I remember watching several cricket games (including Ind-Pak)
in the TV room of my hostel in India, and the crowd used to be much more
civilised and decent. I don't remember anyone shouting "India Zindabad"
or "Jai Shri Ram" or any such stupid nationalistic or religious slogans.
Cheering for a team is natural, but to be jingoistic as if a "jihad" is
being carried out is ridiculous.
I hope people realise that cricket is just a game and should be treated
like one. Winning a tournament doesn't make a country great, all it
means is that it has a better set of 11 cricket players.
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh PA 15213, USA