We have two common religions – cricket and cinema. Why then fight?


Friends, “We have two common religions – cricket and cinema. Why then fight?”
Life for more than a billion people across India and Pakistan came to a standstill during the 2011 world cup semi-final match. India beat Pakistan by 29 runs, 260 to 231.Well done India ! But that’s only half work done. You have another formidable neighbor to face in the final- the Sri Lankans. The Srilankans, who were once underdogs, are now a formidable team. Let us hope and pray that India continues to be lucky to enjoy the winning spree in the final too.
Though it was only a semi- final , the fact that it was a match against Pakistan and the hullabaloo that surrounded it , had made it appear to be the final itself. It happens every time when India takes on its traditional rival, be it cricket or hockey. Of course , the hype surrounding the game of hockey has faded into insignificance over the years , thanks to western countries who, due to their mastery, have taken over the center stage of the game.
After a long interval , I sat down to watch the entire game. Though the match extended well beyond midnight here , I chose to watch it as the entire family was glued to the TV and I too joined the bandwagon. India won the match. But there were some tense moments too. However India won the match, ultimately. Nothing succeeds like success. M.S.Dhoni, the captain, later steered the team India to victory in the finals too.  Dhoni was candid when he said he misread the pitch and had favoured Nehra and dropped Ashwin from the team. I think such honest persons are needed not only for the Indian Sport but to the Indian Polity as well.
Thank God , the Punjab Government ensured the peaceful conduct of the Match without any hitch or disturbance. Indian army helicopters and anti-aircraft guns imposed a no-fly zone over the ground. Kudos to them. I wish to recall the malicious violence let loose by the communal elements some years ago at Mumbai who also vandalized the pitch on the eve of a cricket match between India and Pakistan.
It was an unusual innings from Sachin Tendulkar. Those greatest fans of Sachin who prayed for his 100th century, were completely disappointed. He couldn’t make it even after the DRS rescued him twice and four different fielders dropped catches he offered.
More than the cricket diplomacy that manifested in connection with the match ,what appealed to me was the ‘people to people’ contact that was enabled and taken forward on this occasion. Hundreds of Pakistanis crossed the border – helped by the relaxation of visa rules – crowded into the Mohali stadium. We have come across stories of relatives and couples meeting each other from across the border. Both the countries declaring holidays to their citizens to watch the friendly fare.People rushing to the venue by whatever means.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Yousuf Raza Gilani watched most of the match together from a private box at the stadium. The two Prime ministers sat side by side in a symbolic gesture which may restart the process of ‘confidence building’.
The cricket match ,which could be termed a friendly competition ,follows two days of peace talks between the two countries. Indian Home Secretary G.K. Pillai and Pakistan’s Interior Secretary Chaudhary Qamar Zaman met in New Delhi this week. It was the first formal dialogue since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, during which Pakistan-based militants killed 166 people.
In a joint statement issued on Tuesday, Pakistan agreed “in principle” to allow a team from India to investigate the attacks, while New Delhi said a Pakistani delegation would travel to India to probe the attacks. The two sides also agreed to establish a hotline to share real-time information on terrorist threats.
The so-called “cricket diplomacy” has been used as a platform to ease India-Pakistan tension even in the past. In 1987 and 2005, Pakistani leaders travelled to India to watch cricket matches.
“We have two common religions – cricket and cinema. Why then fight?” were the words printed in a bill-board near the stadium. Worthy words indeed!

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