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By Geeta Pai Vaidya
I am not a huge cricket fan, but with my husband and son following the sport with great passion, I had to keep a track of events. However, when it came to India-Pakistan contests, I always joined them and was glued to the television screens. There are many moments that remain etched in my memory: Misbah-ul-Haq scooping the last ball of the ICC World T20 2007 final or Sachin Tendulkar being dropped at least four times during the 2011 World Cup semi-final. However, one memory stood out for a major part: almost 28 years ago, Javed Miandad smashed the six off the last ball to win a game for Pakistan at Sharjah.
In 1998, my husband moved to Dubai and we followed him a year later. Sharjah was just a 15 minute drive away from home for us, but it always had this different cricketing aura. By the time we moved to Dubai, India weren’t playing Pakistan there too many times. In 1999, they faced them thrice in a tri-series. In the final, India were bowled out for 125. I remember my husband saying during the innings break as we followed the game on television, “There is still hope. We defended the same score in the Rothmans Cup final in 1985 at the same ground.” But, by then, winning against Pakistan at Sharjah was considered a remote possibility for the Indians: Thanks to that six in 1986. The famous saying amongst Indians there was: “Hamne Kaha tha Sharjah. Harjah nahi!”
A year down the line, India were back again to face Pakistan and South Africa in a tri-series. By then, my son had started to understand the game well and was adamant at going over to Sharjah to catch up on the matches. However, my husband and I weren’t all that keen. We had heard all sorts of stories about that venue. There was a word that the atmosphere wasn’t quite good for Indians. Taking our nine-year-old son would have been too risky we felt. Some of our family friends had been to India-Pakistan games in the past and didn’t have good experiences in the stands. My son had to wait for four more years, to watch his first game when we were back home in Mumbai.
But if there is any memory that strikes me, it is the 2003 World Cup. India and Pakistan were facing each other after almost three years and you could sense the buzz in the days leading up to March 1. I had started teaching at a school, where my son studied as well. I had to literally drag him out of the house and put him in the school bus. Being a teacher’s son had its own price, he still says. And, when we reached school, it was apparent that it wasn’t a normal day. Firstly, half the students hadn’t turned up and the other half were well armed with walkmans and mobiles, all surreptitiously smuggled in.
During our break, we heard that Pakistan had put up a score around 270. As the classes began again, the words spread around that Sachin Tendulkar had gone crazy, smashing Shoaib Akhtar and others at will. My son later told me that most of his teachers had also brought their radio sets. We were all human after all! Yet, the day wrapped up at the normal time, but I asked my husband, who worked close-by to pick us up as we didn’t want to miss Tendulkar’s ton. I stopped my son from boarding the school bus and took him to the gate where my husband was ready. “Sachin is on 98,” he said. But, just as we got in, Akhtar bowled that short ball and had him out caught. It was silence in the car! We did get home well in time to watch Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh knock off the winning runs, but my son blames me to this day, for he missed an epic from his hero!
Keeping the cricket aside, living in Dubai did teach me a lot of things. With the large expatriate population there, you interact with many Pakistanis and see your preconceived notions melt away. You soon realize that they are just like you and perhaps, only a boundary separates us. Our neighbours were Pakistanis and I still recall their delicious biryani on Eid. On Diwali, we would take sweets to their place. When my husband was away in Saudi Arabia for a week, his friend, who was from Karachi, drove my eight-year-old son to his first day at the cricket coaching camp. Those are the things I would like to remember. It is just a game after all!
(Geeta Pai Vaidya is a Cost Accountant by profession. She is currently a freelance commerce teacher)
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