Canadians hearing the scoreline "Pakistan 3, India 2" in September 1996 may have assumed they were hearing an ice hockey or baseball result. In fact, the Toronto Cricket, Skating & Curling Club had just become the cricket world's latest off-shore venue for official one-day internationals, hosting five games between India and Pakistan. It was not ideal - the playing field was no better than that of a college campus and the local pitch technology was primitive. Moreover, the torrential rains brought by Hurricane Fran washed out the first two scheduled days and gave the pitches no time to recover between matches.
The other unfortunate consequence of the wet weather was that three of the four planned weekend games had to be staged on weekdays, in front of very small crowds. The one match played on a Saturday attracted 5,000, mainly expatriate Indians, Pakistanis and West Indians; a similar number arrived the following day for the series decider but left disappointed. The real target audience, however, was the aspiring middle class of the Indian subcontinent, who could follow the matches on an American television channel beamed out of Singapore. The promoters agreed to a multi-million dollar five-year deal revolving round the television rights; if the series proved one thing, it was that the clicking turnstile is no longer the index of marketing success.
But Toronto also provided a peaceful setting for matches which have so often proved incendiary in India or Pakistan. There were no riots, despite rival fans rubbing shoulders in the temporary stands, nor were there any reports of suicides or smashing of televisions after Pakistan, who came from behind twice, won the fifth and final match. The atmosphere was also friendly on the field. "After all, it's a game," commented victorious captain Wasim Akram.
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