KR SPORTS EDITOR
SRINAGAR: “I am eagerly looking forward to the Asia Cup Final. As usual I will be rooting for Pakistan. With the form they are in at the moment, they are the favourites, and that lion, LALA will roar again. Weekend delight,” reads Mudasir Maqbool’s post on Kirkat Pyaend, a popular Facebook group that is dedicated exclusively to cricket, in anticipation of Asia Cup summit clash between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Cricket nerds like Mudasir as well as majority of Kashmiris are animated for the Saturday’s showdown between two Asian cricketing giants, and one needs not to be an Einstein to decipher who will be they rooting for. Pakistan cricket team enjoys a massive fan base in this part of the world and Saturday won’t be any different.
And, it has witnessed a huge surge after an Uttar Pradesh college authorities expelled 67 Kashmiri students for cheering for Pakistan last Sunday over India and the state government going a step further charging the beleaguered lot with sedition (only to withdraw it later after being criticised by all and sundry.)
By what one can comprehend from what is being dished out on social networking sites, a cheer and more for Pakistan team wouldn’t be a surprise.
While the buzz and emotions involved in India-Pakistan game is off the Richter scale, cricket commentators feel fans in the Valley will have more than one reason to be glued to the TV to watch the title decider.
Cricket commentator Shabir Hussain Buch likened Pakistan victory against India to title triumph, but felt Misbah ul Haq led side’s resurgence and Shahid Khan Afridi, as much a heartthrob in Kashmir as in his own country, will have Kashmiris pretty much tuned to the game.
“For the Kashmiris, Pakistani team has won the Asia Cup by defeating India. If they were given a choice in advance whether they would want Pakistan to beat India or lift the trophy, they would have gone for the first option. But don’t get misled. Having said that, Kashmiris will remain glued to their TV sets cheering and praying for Pakistan. Pakistan has won back to back thrillers and since the man who delivered the decisive blows was Afridi, as much a heartthrob in Kashmir as in Pakistan, the adrenalin levels are pretty high. Pakistan’s terrific form means if they play with discipline, they have a great chance of lifting the trophy, and Kashmiris, who understand the game well, know that,” says Buch earmarking Pakistan favourites for the encounter.
A Pakistan win, Shabir says, will have Kashmir on proverbial cloud nine.
“It will be a different atmosphere in Kashmir tomorrow and if the Greens deliver the goods, Kashmir will be on cloud nine. It will be a carnival and the jeevay jeevay slogans are going to rend through the air peppered with aazadi chants. People will celebrate and throw parties and networking sites will be awash with Kashmiris swearing by Pakistan,” Buch predicts a carnival like atmosphere post Pakistan win in the Valley.
Gowhar Geelani, a well known cricket pundit who manages Kirkat Pyaend, feels Saturday would have Kashmiris charged up, more so after Meerut fiasco, for the Pak-Lanka fixture, otherwise considered a friendlier one.
“For most Kashmiris, in my opinion, cricket matches between Pakistan and Sri Lanka are generally seen as ‘friendly’ encounters. Given the fact that it is the Asia Cup 2014 finals, and also in the backdrop of how 67 Kashmiris students in Meerut were charged with sedition for cheering for team Pakistan, I guess in case Pakistan prevails over Lanka Kashmir will be in a festive mood, and many Kashmiris, especially the youth, would like to express their admiration for Pakistan cricketers more vociferously,” says Geelani, one of the very few cricket writers in the Valley.
Geelani’s assertions come with a rider, though. “At the same time many parents would be busy preparing the ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ list for their children to avoid unnecessary trouble from any security agency.”
Will Kashmiri students studying in various states of India be deterred by what transpired in Meerut? Samreen Mushtaq, a PHD student in Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi seems to be unfazed.
“Never! Just because they aren’t okay with it, doesn’t mean I can stop supporting the team that we feel a natural connection to. Trying to incite fear amongst is through charges like sedition only makes us more resilient,” says the scholar who will be watching the game along with her Kashmiri friends to root for “Pakistan all the way.”
While a super cricketing Saturday awaits cricket fans world over, for Kashmir, it appears, the game means just more than a sporting fixture.