India-Pakistan seemed like a post-Covid celebration for diasporas.

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By Creative Media News

India and Pakistan have perhaps one of the strongest sporting rivalries in the world. For Indians and Pakistanis, cricket transcends passion and is more related to a religion than it is to a sport in Australia, where the sport is highly valued. With the inaugural T20 World Cup being contested in Australia, over 90,000 spectators poured upon the MCG. If it wasn’t the largest gathering of South Asians outside of South Asia in recorded history, it would have been close.

The political conflicts between the two nations frequently define their rivalry. Ten years have passed since their last bilateral series, and they currently exclusively compete in worldwide competitions.

India-pakistan seemed like a post-covid celebration for diasporas.
India-pakistan seemed like a post-covid celebration for diasporas.

Bureaucratic tensions flared up before the match after Jay Shah, secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, proclaimed unilaterally that India would not play the next Asia Cup in Pakistan. On Monday night, though, there was little evidence of anger in the MCG stands.

On the approach to the Melbourne Park precinct, there were two entrepreneurial groups, one selling India jerseys and the other selling Pakistan jerseys. A group of Indian supporters dressed in the country’s royal blue posed alongside a group of Pakistan supporters dressed in green.

This was the overall tendency in the sea of blue and green that surrounded the area, and instead of the tumultuous rivalry frequently fueled by supporters on social media, it felt like a true celebration of the diaspora in Australia.

The Covid-19 pandemic impacted the Indian and Pakistani diasporas particularly badly. The two countries were among the hardest hit by the pandemic, with losses affecting the majority at some point.

Post covid celebration
Pakistan’s Wahab Riaz (C) celebrates with teammates after the dismissal of India’s K.L. Rahul during the 2019 Cricket World Cup group stage match between India and Pakistan at Old Trafford in Manchester, northwest England, on June 16, 2019. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE

Coupled with two years marked by lockdowns, travel bans, and heightened awareness of discrimination against these populations, it frequently felt as if there was little to celebrate. On Monday, both sets of fans felt they were in it together, and a sense of brotherhood spread across the stadiums.

Indian and Pakistani musicians performed concurrently, filling the MCG with a cacophony. In the lines to enter the stadium, people chatted and laughed while jostling to catch a peek of the teams warming up in the practice nets.

The diasporas are two of the fastest-growing in Australia, thus the audience was rather youthful; many people, including myself, were attending their first India vs. Pakistan match.

Throughout the entire match, music and song were ever-present, with both sets of fans allowing themselves to be swept up in the mood as their chants filled the stadium. The thunder of thousands singing the Indian national song was particularly memorable. Captain Rohit Sharma was on the verge of tears by the conclusion of the national anthem.

As the players approached the battlefield, the MCG transformed into a modern-day colosseum filled with cheering spectators anticipating the upcoming gladiatorial battle. In the second over, when Arshdeep Singh trapped Pakistan captain Babar Azam in front of the wickets, the enthusiastic murmur grew into a ferocious roar. The boom penetrated the stands with such force that it was almost as if the ground were trembling.

The horns of the Pakistani bands began to sound when it appeared that not even Kohli could win the match. When the man from Delhi struck Haris Rauf back over his head for six in the penultimate over, the audience came to life again and did everything they could to support their team. The moment the winning runs were scored, it was as if time had stopped. Then, absolute chaos ensued.

Many will say that this was the greatest T20 game ever played. Based on cricketing quality alone, perhaps other matches surpass this one. Nevertheless, considering the audience, the mood, the drama, and the overall narrative, there is a strong case that this was one of the most famous cricket matches of the 21st century. It was a turning point in Virat Kohli’s career. Possibly, it also defined a generation of fans.

On either side of us, the most ardent Indian and Pakistani fans shouted for their respective teams during the entire match. Nonetheless, as the final ball was hit, both teams shook hands with us and then with one another. It was a symbolic expression of friendship for the occasion. This was significantly more than a cricket match. It was a festive occasion. And one that will never be forgotten by everyone on the planet.

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