First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
When planning a weekend in Colombo to watch cricket, we chose D1 and D2 matches hoping Pakistan would qualify as D1. What we didn't realise was that the format was planned in such a way that if Pakistan and India qualified, they would meet in this game irrespective of their positions in their groups. When it hit us that we had tickets for this match, it was like we had died and gone to heaven!
Given Pakistan's track record against India in World Cups and their woeful batting performance against South Africa, we were expecting India to win. But watching India bowl half-trackers against the Aussies gave us hope that Pakistan would make a big score here.
As a Pakistani, I am supporting Pakistan. My second-choice team are Sri Lanka. I'd like to see Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene win a World Cup before their career ends.
I wanted to see how India's part-time bowlers would do against the likes of Umar Akmal, Nasir Jamshed and Kamran Akmal. MS Dhoni had got a lot of flak in the press for playing three spinners against Australia so when he went in with four bowlers here it was a case of how well the bit bowlers would do. In the end, it was Yuvraj Singh and Virat Kohli's bowling, along with R Ashwin's, that restricted Pakistan.
One thing I'd have changed about the match
Unfortunately for us, the only obstruction in the stand blocking the view of the field was placed right opposite our seats. However, these were the light poles beaming out colourful flashy lights as the cheerleaders danced in between overs. That made up for us not being able to really watch the bowlers complete their delivery strides.
Face-offs I relished
I wanted to watch Kohli bat live against a quality spin attack and wanted to see his bat speed, his placement of the ball, and, especially, his timing. He did not disappoint at all. His footwork and confidence against the Pakistani spinners was a joy to watch and confirmed to me that he will be one of the best (if not the best) batsmen of the next decade.
The goose-bump moment for me was when two massive flags of India and Pakistan were brought out by little kids. The national anthems of the two countries were played and the crowds joined in, which reaffirmed my belief that whatever may be happening in one's country and however much may we criticise the governments and the "systems", national pride runs deep in all of us. At the end of the day, we are all the same, and that's an ideal starting point for peaceful living.
Shot of the day
Two shots stood out. Umar Akmal smacked Irfan Pathan for a huge six out of nowhere, and then Kohli timed a sweet cover drive to the boundary against a decent length ball from Saeed Ajmal. Fans are lucky to have such talented young batsmen to enjoy for years to come.
The most amazing thing about the match was the build-up. Playing on a neutral ground doesn't matter when it comes to India-Pakistan matches. The stands were packed and the frenzy was unbelievable. The flags, horns and other noise-making instruments were played at ear-shattering decibels. All that could be seen in the stands were the waving flags and thousands of loud supporters. Superb atmosphere!
From the last eight overs of the Australia-South Africa match that preceded this match all the way to the end of this game, the fans were either on their feet or shouting and chanting at the top of their voices. There was the occasional Mexican wave and shouts of "Jeetay ga bhai jeetay ga…" depending on which team's wicket fell and who got a boundary. Yuvraj, Shahid Afridi, Kohli and Umar Gul got the biggest cheers.
Pakistan-India matches are all about colour. It was the Pakistani sea of green versus the Indian tri-colour. Some people were wearing the 1999 World Cup shirts. The drums and painted faces added to the buzz.
The DJ was the star of the show. He played a lot of Bollywood music before the match started, which had the crowd dancing and singing along. Then he played some choice Sinhalese hits. At one point I nearly forgot I was at a cricket match and not a music concert. The Indian fans went crazy when "We Will Rock You" was played as the eight Pakistan wicket fell. The Premadasa was a sight to behold as fireworks kept going off from time to time. It was well worth the money to be present here for this event.
Marks out of 10
7. The cricket was pretty disappointing since it was a one-sided game lacking the thrills we usually expect from these two teams. However, the brilliant atmosphere, packed stands, music and entertainment went a long way in making up for the lack of a thrilling match. Credit goes to the organisers for hosting a superb show and handling also some of the over-zealous supporters well. When an Australia-South Africa Super Eights game is seen as an opening act, it shows that as a spectacle there is nothing better than an India-Pakistan match. Well done, Colombo!
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Mohsin Gheewala runs an apparels business and is a part-time cricket strategist for whoever is willing (and bored enough) to listen to him. He has a Masters in management from the London School of Economics. Cricket is more than a passion for him, however, the dream of being involved in the sport in any way other than as a spectator and arm-chair critic fades with every Kohli cover drive
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