Fraternal Indo-Pak fans threaten to spoil fierce rivalry
Evidence continues to mount that during the recent Champions Trophy match between India and Pakistan at Edgbaston, fans from both sides engaged in harmless, non-confrontational conduct unbecoming of the fiercest rivalry in sport.
Fresh amateur video footage has emerged that shows fans in the stands mixing with one other in an unashamedly friendly manner. The frankly embarrassing behaviour on show included singing, dancing, some good-natured banter, and fans otherwise generally carrying on as though they weren't carousing with sworn arch enemies whose countries had been to war against each other.
Just as troublingly if not even more so, these cloying interactions do not seem to be limited to meetings in person. Both sets of fans have been taking their newfound camaraderie to online forums and comments sections of popular websites, ESPNcricinfo not excepted. Where before the animosity between fans of the two nations would be a moderator's nightmare, now these platforms would appear to be a congratulatory platform for thriving mutual-admiration societies.
Experts, observers and seething ex-players agree that the much touted rivalry between the two nations is under serious threat of deflating like a four-day-old party balloon.
"Did men like Javed Miandad, Kiran More, Aamir Sohail and Venkatesh Prasad give their blood sweat and tears on the cricket field so that fans today can grab each other around the waist and sing songs from Sholay?" demanded an incensed Bishan Singh Bedi. ""Did you know that only ten people were arrested on the morning of the match? Youngsters today have to understand that they are not just letting us elders down with this kind of behaviour but also themselves," he sputtered.
"If I were dead, I'd be spinning in my grave," confirmed Imran Khan. "Back in my day, the average fan on the street had enough of a sense of history, enough of a sense of respect, to know to hate his cross-border rival with a passion that bordered on the psychotic," he explained. "The situation today is tepid in comparison, and if something isn't done about it fast, I'm afraid we may have lasting peace on our hands."
To that end, we have come up with a simple seven-point plan that we hope will nip the problem in the bud before it threatens to escalate out of control entirely:
1) Fans caught with their cheeks painted in the colours of both teams, or who are caught waving the flag of a nation not expressly their own, must be stripped of their passports and nationalities altogether, and exiled to spend the rest of their lives in Sharjah.
2) Ban the song "Yeh Dosti Hum Nahi Todenge (This friendship we will never break)" from being played or sung in stadiums. From now on, only "Dil, Dil Pakistan" and "Vande Mataram" to be permitted. Offenders will have a nice warm spot waiting for them in Tihar or Lahore Central Jail. (Sreesanth, you might want to put that music career on hold.)
3) Get rid of Misbah and Dhoni as captains. They smile too much, and their teeth are too white. One word: vanilla. We need the tigerish attitude of Imran Khan and Sourav Ganguly to give us all a kick up our backsides.
4) Bring back Javed Miandad. Seriously, does this even need to be said? When Javed was around, whether in the capacity of player or coach, one could rest assured there would be no room for any form of sentimental tomfoolery. He'd whip his players into a raging frenzy, and there's no love lost among Indian fans either where the "desert fox" in concerned.
5) Bring back Chetan Sharma. Should complement the Javed appointment nicely. Make him bowling coach of the Indian team. Watch the sparks fly. And the last-ball sixes.
6) Make General Musharraf the President of Pakistan again. Who better to have as patron of one of the cricket teams that make up the supposedly fiercest rivalry in sport than the former chief of army staff himself? Famously known to be an ardent admirer of Dhoni's long hair: the fact that the Indian captain has since shorn his locks will not go down well with the General. One hopes.
7) Fans being friendly to one another on online forums to be banned from leaving comments again. And sent to Sharjah.
R Rajkumar tweets here