INDIA PAK ODI PREVIEW – JUST A MATCH?

The atmosphere is electric. Work in both the countries has come to a stand-still. You can distinguish ordinary people from those in powerful positions (or so they think) by the latter barely hiding their excitement by saying, “Come on; it is only a game“.Mohali stadium is more full than the last Himachal Roadways bus from Chandigarh to Shimla. The noise levels have defined newer standards in cacophony. People in both countries are glued to the television as if it is their last chance ever to watch a match.

There are still ten minutes for the game to start. In the VVIP stand Pakistan PM Yousuf Raza Gilani, on his cellphone, is urgently discussing something with President Obama. He is whispering so low that no one can hear him. Manmohan Singh is not even making an attempt to overhear because, on his phone, the RAW is providing live text of the conversation.

Gilani: President Sir; forget about any other financial aid to compensate us for our sterling and sacrificing role in your Global War on Terror (Aside, that too is picked by RAW: Global and War are yours and your allies but Terror is totally ours). We want your help in winning this match.

Obama: But why is winning so important to you?

Gilani: Several reasons. The most important is that from the earlier aid you gave us for floods etc, my cabinet colleagues and I have bet nearly a thousand crore on Pakistan winning. Two, the team and us want to go back alive after the match, and…

Obama: Okay, I get the idea. But what can we do?

Gilani: What can you do? How are you asking, what can you do? We have seen for ourselves what you can do, Sir. Davis, an ordinary US embassy technical and administrative staff showed us what you can do. Your display of humanitarian assistance to Libyans has hinted to us what you can do. Sir, we know there is nothing that US cannot do.

Obama: Let me see; should we send some one in disguise to the Indian dressing room?

Gilani: Aha…now you are talking. I leave the method to you, Sir. But please hurry, President Saheb, the match is about to start.

The din is excessive; which is only appropriate for two countries in the world that make maximum noise between themselves. Indeed, when they refuse to make noise (in some circles this noise is called ‘talks‘), others have to intervene to ask them to re-start making noise…..and gas.

Umpires Simon Taufel of Australia and Ian Gould of England walk up to the middle. Both the Captains join them. The cheering has broken the sound-barrier.

At the toss, Afridi has asked for ‘Heads’. He knows there is something typically Pakistani about asking for heads; their history from ancient times is replete with instances when they have demanded heads. Dhoni, like what Indians are always used to, gets the ‘Tails’. The coin is tossed.

Gilani pulls out his cellphone (ever since 26/11, men in authority in Pakistan know the importance of cellphone): President Sir, let me see proof of your being with us. Make us win the toss.

Pakistan wins the toss and elects to bat.

Manmohan to Gilani (as always in the appeasing tone so that they would listen to reason): Great, you have won the toss. Congratulations…

Gilani ignores it as Pakistan does with every attempt to placate them.

Indian team takes up positions. Mohammad Hafeez and Kamran Akmal walk to the crease. There is pin-drop silence even on the TV except for one B Dutt who has perfected the art of saying the obvious: “The match is about to begin. History is about to be written….may Pakis….I mean, the best team win”.

Her comments go totally unnoticed as people have learnt long ago not to pay her attention.

Zaheer Khan goes on top of his run – up. Prayers take on renewed vigour. Every ball counts. He bowls and it is hit for a four. There is uproar from the Pakistani fans. Gilani is on his feet.

The going is good with both the openers fluently hitting the bowlers all over the field. So happy is the going that Gilani has no need to make any calls.

Bhajji is brought in early and he too is hammered all over the place.

An aide reports to Chidambaram that some Pakistani fans quietly left the field and are headed towards Srinagar. Chidambaram asks the Security to keep a watch on them. Army Chief calls to say there is large scale infilteration from across the border. Manmohan tells him to keep a watch on the situation since there is an important World Cup match in progress.

“But, Sir”, persists the Army Chief, “It is just a match whereas the situation here is turning grave”.

PM, “I know it is just a match; but, we have to give the impression everything is normal. The whole world is watching us. Ring me up after four-five hours”.

Meanwhile there has been a change of bowling. And Yuvraj, as expected, has struck. Gilani is about to reach for the cellphone but Younis puts the train back on track.

Later, the wickets keep falling at regular intervals but the batsmen in an act of supreme defiance – the one that they ususally assume when playing against India – take the score to 267 in 50 overs, ably helped by a swashbuckling innings of 52 runs by Shahid Afridi.

It is not a very big score but under the conditions everyone agrees that it is a fighting score.
B Dutt also agrees.

After the break, Sehwag and Sachin take the field. Akmal before taking up his position behind the wickets says something to Sehwag. Most of it is inaudible but Sehwag hears the word “ma” clearly. This inspires Sehwag to send the first two deliveries of Shoaib Akhtar to the boundary. Shoaib goes across and tells Akmal to refrain from the “ma” word and….. switch to other relatives.

Sachin goes early on a no ball by Umar Gul. All Indians are crestfallen.
Air Force Chief rings up the PM, “Sir I have bad news.”
PM: “I know…Sachin just got out…”
Air Force Chief, “Sir, actually one of our planes on routine mission was hit by a missile from across the border…..”
PM: “You manage the situation. What are you Air Force Chief for? Here there is do or die”
Air Force Chief: “Sir, it is just a match..”
PM: “Don’t I know it? Now let me concentrate please…”

Despite all the tamasha, the match goes on. Fortunes swing, sometimes this side, sometimes that side.

And then….

It is the last over. India requires 5 to win…

Tension is everywhere. “Why does an India – Pakistan match resemble a cliff-hanger?”, everyone asks. Everyone knows the answer. Bookies laugh all the way to the …..well, not the bank since they can never put these kind of winnings in a bank….maybe, laugh all the way to…well, you know the answer; why do you require me to tell it?

The first ball of Abdul Razzaq, takes the wicket of Yousuf Pathan who had made a quick 43 in 27 balls.
There is hushed silence.
Will India lose again?

In various parts of India, B Dutt reports, as many as 6 people have died of heart-attack.

It is just a game….they had said.

Bhajji is the next batsman in. Akmal tells him, “Teri ma…” etc.
Bhajji is quite used to it and just before Razzak bowls his next delivery, he tells Akmal a ripe one.
Akmal misses to catch the snick by Bhajji in the confusion and Bhajji and Ashwin take two runs.

Four balls to go and three to be scored.

Camera shows a girl in the stand closing her eyes and praying to Allah to make India win.

Gilani does the same but asks for Pakistan to win. Allah too is confused. He tells his assistant, “You had told me it is just a match“.

Can they do it? Or won’t they?

Bhajji takes one run on the next ball against all odds and now the match is nearly in India’s favour with three balls to go.

Gilani reaches for the phone: “President Sir; the Indians are about to cross the threshold”.

Obama assumes he is talking about nuclear threshold. His worst fears are coming true.

There is an urgent call to Manmohan even as Razzak is walking up to the top of his bowling run-up: “Listen Singh; call off the ruddy match. We don’t want mayhem on our hands”.

Manmohan: “But, Mr President, it is just a match…..”

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