Magic of India Pakistan matches











Gaurav Joshi describes the atmosphere before during and after the India-Pakistan thriller in Kolkata which India won by six wickets

The sun rises very early in Kolkata. To be exact it was at 5.41am that the first rays of the sun appeared over the Hubli river that bisects Kolkata and Howrah. The 19th March match is about to commence. It was the day of most arch-anticipated clash of the T20 World Cup.   It was India against Pakistan.

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Kolkata might be the furthest of the large cities in India but even at dawn you could sense that there was going to be sufficient support for Pakistan in enemy territory. As the milkman rode his bike through the neighbourhood delivering milk, he was proud to show the green colours and the white star of Pakistan flag printed on the back of his white silky salwar.

In broken English he told a tale of his parents having to flee Pakistan for work around the time for Independence and how he had never had a chance to go back to his motherland. Having lived over 50 years in Kolkata, delivering milk the man known as ”˜chacha’ tells his neighbourhood kids “sirf ek din ke liye meri maa ka desh ko support karoonga” [for one day let me support the country of my mother].

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”˜Chacha’ doesn’t reveal his name but he feels there are many of his style who had to flee Pakistan and were never allowed to reenter.   For sole cricketing purpose he wanted to support Pakistan in cricket today, the 19th of March.

So right from sunrise, there was indication that something big was happening in the city. Next up as the sun played hide and seek behind the clouds the TV channels started broadcasting and hyping up the high intensity clash.

As kids returned from ”˜half days’ from school you could hear the conversations down alleys, bus stops, playgrounds and buses.   “It will be Virat all the way, Pakistan have never beaten India in World Cups and I don’t want that trend to be broken and certainly not in our city” says a young chap.   “I can’t wait to reach home and soak in all the build up”.   It was only on the stroke of noon although the match was over 7 hours away. The excitement was there to be seen.

To get a grip of the excitement it was worth disembarking at the Esplanade tram stop which is only half a kilometre from the ground. It was 3 pm and the word had slowly spread that the likes of Amitabh Bachchan and Sachin Tendulkar would be attending the game. “Amitabh will be singing the national anthem tonight” says an eldery man standing outside the Raj Bhawan.   “Delhi might be the capital and Mumbai the financial hub but us Bangalis know how to put on the show better than anyone.”

The match which was supposed to be played in Dharamsala had been moved to Kolkata only 10 days ago but Kolkata had rolled out the red carpet in style to ensure this was one of the biggest events the nation had seen.

Fans dressed in India shirts had already started to gather around Eden Gardens around 4pm, cups of ”˜chai’ were seen in their hands as discussed the prospect of Mohammad Amir trying to dismiss India’s national hero Virat Kohli.

Compared to Mumbai or Delhi or even Bangalore, the magnitude of the Eden Gardens stadium really absorbs you.   The tall flood lights and the high stands make anybody stop and stare to take it all in. A few American Indians who had arrived for the match say, “This is brilliant, we travelled to the super bowl last year but the passion around this place is second to none.   You can sense the enormous pride people have about their country by simply standing here and watch all these people go through the gates.”

But just as the crowd starts entering through the gates, the fast moving black clouds grab everyone’s attention.   The best part about the Eden Gardens is abundances of entrances to this giant stadium. Other Indian grounds have limited entry and exit points while the Eden Gardens is well equipped to handle the capacity of 80,000 spectators.

Everything at the Eden Gardens happens quickly.   The fans get inside quickly and they leave quickly. The outfield is quicker than any other ground and the crowds can turn on the home team quickly as well.

Today it is quick moving clouds that threaten to ruin the match. As the rain pours down for 15 to 20 minutes people are worried but optimistic. Remember everything happens quickly here, so even the water will drain quickly is what we are told.

The sky is dark and the four lights towering over the field are shining brightly. People completely drenched collect the 4’s and 6’s signs as they enter the stadium. We are told half the stadium is full.   The shower clears and the fans flock inside.

The Indian cheering has become louder and louder and then suddenly they chant ”˜Sachin Sachin’, no guessing that one of the chief guests has arrived.   Inside the camera shows Tendulkar sitting in his seat waving ecstatically.   Soon he is called on the playing surface for a felicitation. The crowd erupts with joy.   This is a carnival, not just a cricket match.

Throughout the match the crowd cheers, roars, screams, hushes, claps but as India nears the target they unite to sing ”˜Vande Mataram’ as one. The crowd is mostly Bengalis but throughout the night you can hear people speaking Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Konkani, Bhojpuri, Malayam and many other dialects.     This is India as one. They sing ”˜Vande Mataram’ as one. They cheer for Kohli and Dhoni as one.   People outside the stadium tell you that ”˜Vande Mataram’ can be heard as far as Esplanade Station a fair distance away.

As quick as they had all united they all disperse after the game. After all it is the Eden Gardens where everything happens quickly.   Different professionals head home in different manner. Only the Eden Gardens and a game against Pakistan can unite India is such a manner.

By the time you take everything in, the rays of the sun are once again rising over the Hubli. What about the milkman ”˜Chacha’? He is back the next morning, not wearing the same attire but still delivering milk in the same manner.   “Hogaya match” (match is finished) he concludes. It is like in life, everything happens quickly but you can spend a day or a week or even a month reflecting on those crazy 24 hours which are so memorable in an India Pakistan match.

The crowd goes home delighted. India has beaten Pakistan, for the 11th time in 11 World Cup limited-overs Internationals.

Virat Kohli is the Player of the Match and the hero of over 75,000 roaring Indians.

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