"It’s just a game, it’s just a sport why taking it too serious and being so poignant." These were my words. And I was trying to pacify my friends who were being unable to control their emotions after recent Pakistan-India encounter.  The reply was, “You think about it and ask yourself ‘Do I actually mean what I am saying?’”. Challenge was accepted and I started thinking about it from the beginning and found they were right. Normally, a cricket match starts on the day when it is scheduled to be held but for me the match in question started months ago. The first task was to assign the duty of buying tickets to a friend as soon as the sale was open. That idea was a success and we managed to bag tickets for all the willing friends. And when I use the word ‘success’ I mean it, because all the tickets were sold out in nearly 27 minutes.

[caption id="attachment_1712" align="alignright" width="300"]The ticket to watch world war of cricket (Photo: Rai Azlan) The ticket to watch the world war of cricket (Photo: Rai Azlan)[/caption]

Taking a break from the busy life of London and travelling all the way back to Newport, near Cardiff in Wales, joining the group of friends there to hit Edgbaston next morning. It was second success. Although the travel to Wales last Friday took me twice as much as it normally does in terms of both time and money.

The third success was to reach Edgbaston in time on the morning of last Saturday. The journey to Edgbaston ended in 90 minutes but the place was too crowded and the atmosphere gave the idea as if whole Birmingham were heading to Edgbaston cricket ground. We spent a hefty 45 minutes in finding a parking space and a vacant space was waiting for us nearly three miles away from the stadium.

The walk to stadium was another charm. Many new and short-term acquaintances were made, many self-proclaimed cricket experts and analysts were busy in showering their knowledge and analyses. Temporary stalls were set to sell the Tiranga and green flags, horns, fancy hats, and whatnot.

Standing outside the stadium during the anthem, we were waiting for our friend who had the tickets. Anthem time was the biggest attraction for me that day but we missed it – fortune does not smile on you all the time.

The crowd was keyed up, electrified, buoyant and enthusiastic. Representatives of many TV channels were humming around to get some bite, a Pashto TV channel (Khyber TV) tried their hand on our group, questions were asked in Pashto and answers were in Urdu with a slight flavour of Punjabi. We were in the queue when Pakistan lost the first wicket; we were still in the queue when Hafeez was hitting one boundary after the other.

We were finally sitting on our designated seats. Just 25 feet away from us Shikhar Dhawan were fielding at the third man position. But before reaching the seats we had to go through the security checks which was tighter than the normal games, cell phones were jammed, our placards, cans of cold drinks, and horns were confiscated, however, the parathas and biryani boxes were allowed, maybe because of their delicious aroma.

The match was between 22 in the ground but the 22000 around the playing field were consistently involved in every fall of wicket and every shot was cheered and booed equally. The fielders of team India on the boundary were also engaging the spectators. The chants of "gujjer gujjer" and” hero hero" made Dhawan to start twisting his moustache, and when clouds started pouring rain, he started giving gestures as if he was trying to tear clouds apart to get the sun rays back on ground.

[caption id="attachment_1713" align="alignright" width="300"]Emotional sloganeering ended with “yeh dosti hum nahi chorhain gey” (We’ll never give up this friendship) (Photo: Rai Azlan) Emotional sloganeering ended with “yeh dosti hum nahi chorhain gey” (We’ll never give up this friendship) (Photo: Rai Azlan)[/caption]

The kind of game team Pakistan presented was as bad as even a blind could see. That is why one friend declared the as match as ‘India vs Rain’ rather than ‘India vs Pakistan’ because it was rain that was testing nerves of the Indian players and the Indian fans the most. Those who were chanting slogans and yelling against each other were seen sharing umbrellas during the rain. However, that was near the playing field. Under the roof at the entrance, many gathered to take shelter from rain. In addition, the presence of ultra charged crowd representing the arch-rival cricketing nations instigated the exchange of words and slogans. The fan verbal fight heated up with every passing moment, however, it ended up with both sides holding hands and singing "yeh dosti hum nahi chorhain gey" (We’ll never give up this friendship). Chants of “Jiju Jiju” filled the air when Shoaib Mailk was playing; while Pakistani spectators raised these chants Indian fans were silent and tried to coin an answer to it.

When rain stopped the game after Dhawan’s dismissal, our group decided to leave as rain did not seem to stop, and even if it stopped there would not be any charm left in the match. When we were on our way back to the car parking, I realised that we were not alone. A majority of Pakistani spectators were on their way back homes, dejected and heartbroken.

I always wonder that why people start leaving the stadium when their favourite team is losing. That day I got the answer, at least this hypothesis is valid for Pak-India game. The reason is possibility of harsh exchange of words and fan fights especially when emotions are running so high that cricket does not remain a game any more.

That was my journey and a lifetime experience at Edgbaston. We lost the match but the moments I lived there are matchless and priceless, and I do not know if I will ever get to see the mother of all cricket games again.

So here, I put the full stop to the series of Pakistan vs India in the Champions Trophy. Though India won this time around but the past is a reality and Pakistan’s victory in 2004 and 2009 cannot be forgotten or changed. One bad day and one bad performance should not disturb the morale because Viv Richards said, “One day is not a whole season.”
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