Cricket, the sport in which the rivalry goes beyond sport

AHMEDABAD, India — It’s one of the fiercest rivalries in sports, with hundreds of millions of people tuning in when they play. But cricket matches between India and Pakistan are often overshadowed by frosty relations between the neighbors, who have fought several wars in their history.

This month they met in the men’s Cricket World Cup in India, in a match that India won by a comfortable margin. Tickets at the Narendra Modi Stadium, named after the Indian nationalist Prime Minister, were sold out.

“It is the most hyped match in the history of cricket,” said Sheharyar Jaffri, a journalist in Karachi, Pakistan.

Indian authorities deployed 11,000 police and guards around the stadium in Ahmedabad as a security measure, even when attendance consisted of fans of a single team. Pakistani fans were not issued visas and only a few Pakistani journalists were given travel permission.

Team India had refused to travel to Pakistan for another tournament this year, using its influence in cricket’s international governing body to move matches to neutral venues in Sri Lanka. Pakistan, in return, warned that it could withdraw from the World Cup in India, a threat it ultimately abandoned.

Since Pakistan was separated from India in the British partition of 1947, cricket had occasionally broken the ice when tensions were particularly high.

The most recent tensions largely date back to 2008, when Pakistani militants carried out a terrorist attack in Mumbai, killing more than 160 people.

Bilateral cricket ties have remained largely suspended since then, with Pakistani players banned from the lucrative Indian Premier League.

Anurag Thakur, India’s Sports Minister, recently reiterated that despite Pakistan’s participation in this World Cup, India’s stance on resuming ties with cricket will not change “until terrorism stops.”

For Modi’s Hindu nationalist base, Pakistan remains an easy populist rallying cry. Dozens of people in India have been prosecuted for expressions of support for the Pakistani team.

In Pakistan, which is under the control of an Islamist militancy, expressions of support for the other side have also led to prosecutions and imprisonment.

While traveling to Ahmedabad to attend the World Cup, the Sadasivan family waited to board their flight from New Delhi. Raghav, 7 years old, “batted” with a rolled up poster that had the flags of India and Pakistan drawn on it. The sign said: “BE FRIENDS.”

By: Mujib Mashal

BBC-NEWS-SRC:, IMPORTING DATE: 2023-10-18 19:40:08

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