Nineties was an era of black and white movies and radio songs. It was also the time when cricket became popular in Kashmir. Die-hard fans would spent hours listening to cricket commentary with their ears glued to the radio sets.
Our community is one of those close knit communities where everyone knows and interacts with everybody. So if there ever is anything out of the ordinary, you can feel it right away. One day when I was a kid, I felt a nervous excitement in the atmosphere. I could see people buying new radio batteries and adjusting their TV antennas. Names like Javed Miandad and Salim Malik were being tossed in the air. On inquiring about it, I was told that there was a cricket match between India and Pakistan.
In the evening, the whole neighbourhood gathered around a single TV set placed in the drawing room of a neighbours house. I too sat on my uncles lap with my eyes glued to the TV. The room was filled with anxious people and the atmosphere was pretty charged. Every ball earned quite dramatic reactions. The praise quickly changed to cussing, especially when Pakistan lost that day. The match however was a turning point for me and my friends. It marked the day we became ardent cricket fans. Twenty years have passed by and our eyes still stay glued to the television sets whenever there is a cricket match. The excitement definitely goes up a notch when India play against Pakistan.
When it comes to cricket, both countries have some diehard fans and the rivalry is humungous. A cricket matches between these two countries is more like a battle field. From Miandads last ball six in Sharjah to Virat Kohli’s majestic 183 in Asia cup, from Akrams zig-zag deliveries to Tendulkar’s sublime timing, cricket fans have seen it all. However, the highlights are the reactions of the cricket crazy fans who take the game a tad too seriously.
The situation isnt much different in Kashmir. Cricket for Kashmiris means Pakistan. Every Kashmiri is an ardent supporter of the team and anyone who dares to support a different team has to face the wrath of the frantic Pakistani supporters. In Kashmir, every left handed batsman irrespective of his batting talent is a Saaed Anwer and every left arm bowler becomes a Wasim Akram. Every sturdy guy is an Inzaman just like every fast bowler unhesitatingly takes the title of Shoaib Akhter. Spinners by default became Saqlain Mushtaqs and every fair and handsome guy with shiny long hair is known as Afridi.
The 1992 world cup victory made Imran Khan an overnight legend in Kashmir. People started buying anything with his photo because everyone wanted to have a memoir of the legendary man. If you are a nineties child, you will remember well the famous heating coils with Imran Khans picture our mothers sent us to buy. These coils can still be found in certain homes in Kashmir. When Pakistan won the match series in 2005, a local music album narrating the highlights of the tournament was released. The line ye kus gatkar kore Afridi’n was on the tongue of every little Kashmiri kid. The sadness over a lost match was equally devastating. Every time Pakistan lost a match, the gloomy atmosphere was quite evident.
For Kashmiris, cricket has also brought a fair share of miseries. Every time the two countries play each other, hundreds of Kashmiri students studying outside Kashmir spent sleepless nights fearing they might be beaten and harassed. In a recent incident, many Kashmiri students were beaten to pulp in states like Punjab and Haryana just for rooting for the Pakistani cricket team.
The arch rivals will again lock horns at Eden Gardens in Kolkata during the world T20 series. Fans on both sides are anticipating a dramatic game. Indians may be feeling quite optimistic considering their unbeaten record in world cups against Pakistan. On the other hand, you can never predict with the Pakistani team. They are popular for pulling off some pretty impossible victories. Cricket fans tend to be highly emotional and sentimental for these games. But one must not forget that it is just a game and there can only be one winner. It isnt a matter of life and death. It is important to keep your cool and remember to enjoy the game, not let your emotions get the better of you.
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