Stark realities beneath pro-Pakistan cricket euphoria in Kashmir

Malik Zahra Khalid

PEOPLE of Kashmir have maniac levels of love and affection for the Pakistani cricket team from the past several decades. Whenever there is any international tournament, these levels become visible on streets, in discussions and in homes as entire families remain glued to television sets to watch these cricket tussles with great enthusiasm.
It is virtual war and rooms with television sets beaming Indo-Pak cricket match is no less than a war room. The latest ICC T-20 World Cup 2016 was one such tournament, which has whipped lot of hysteria in Kashmir valley. Pro-Pak cricket proclivities become distinct during such tournaments. The recent Indo-Pak T-20 tussle was a real test of stress levels for the people of Kashmir. First, prayers were for the victory of Pakistan, when the chances dried up, people started talking of other strong teams who can defeat India.
With Pakistani cricket team are attached deep sentiments of people in Kashmir who after the partition identify themselves with this country through cricket. Any Pakistani cricket player who would fare well against India or any other country would find a place of his coloured picture in Srinagar’s homes and shops. People of Kashmir through game of cricket have always tried to look for their own utopian victories in life and politics. The sense of defeat in Kashmir has always found an expression in the results of Pakistani cricket matches.
Generations have passed adoring Pakistani cricketers and perhaps they have had best fan following in Kashmir valley than in their own home towns. Many times in the past Pakistani cricket victories have resulted in pro-Pak public demonstrations, bursting of fire crackers at a massive scale here signaling that pro-Pak sentiment has always been revived by this game.
Cricket euphoria in Kashmir valley has roots in decades of history and people have great love for Pakistani players, and the present sensation for them is Shahid Ali Khan Afridi. In yesteryears, cricketer turned politician Imran Khan was a household name in valley and earned lot of public support after devastating strong Indian batting line by his ‘In-Dippers’.
One of the past victories of Pakistan at Sharjah against India has almost entered into the local folk lore when on the last ball of the match Javed Miandad hit a six of Chetan Sharma. It was a turning point for the fan following of Pakistani cricketers in Kashmir valley and honestly they enjoyed more public support than any of the Pakistani political leaders.
But, surprisingly there is a generational shift in this level of madness for the Pakistani cricketers here. One can witness grandparents still wedded to the loyalty of Pakistani cricket team even if they cannot win a single game. After cursing the present team, they will always remember and cherish great cricket epics of Pakistani cricket team.
Then there is our generation which is vacillating between the two generations as our kids do not have such die hard feelings for the Pakistani cricket team. The new generation is looking at the game purely as a game and many of school going children love Indian players for playing good cricket. Though they are reprimanded by their grandparents, but their parents are caught in a tight spot as they fail to justify why they love Pakistani team despite their debacles.
Coming back to T- 20 cricket tournament, people of Kashmir despite cursing Pakistani cricket team are still hoping against the hope that they may remain in the game. Their justification is strange, they are with calculators looking at the average and hoping that India may lose one or two games and they will see a dramatic entry of boys in green among the four teams. Such misplaced optimism has its roots in the fact that people of Kashmir have lot of love and hope on the Pakistani cricket team and have always found in this game an opportunity for themselves to give expression to their own hankers.

—Courtesy: Rising Kashmir.
[Author teaches at Media Education Research Centre and she can be mailed at zaramlk94@gmail.com]

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