Did India win the match against Pakistan but lose the game in Ahmedabad?
The Olympic spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play appeared missing at Saturday’s match between Indian and Pakistan even as cricket will make a debut in 2028 as an Olympic event
Even before the India-Pakistan match in Ahmedabad began on Saturday, 14 October, the trolling of the visitors had started. A full-page advertisement in city newspapers set the tone with travel and hospitality brand MakeMyTrip consoling Pakistani players for the certain defeat against India.
Discounts were offered to Pakistani players as consolation prizes.
If Pakistan loses by: 10 wickets or 200 runs, get 50% off. Use code: BoysPlayedWell
By 6 wickets or 100 runs, get 30% off. Use code: EkShaheenHaar
By 3 wickets or 50 runs, get 10% off. Use code: NoMaukaMauka
Former Indian cricketer and opener Virender Sehwag found it funny enough to post appreciatively in social media, “Na Ishq mein na Pyaar mein; Jo mazza hai Pakistan ki haar mein”
While the ‘moment marketing’ or gimmick advertising was applauded by many, not everyone was amused. They found it in poor taste.
Musician TM Krishna reacted by saying, “The fact that we have become a country where corporations feel it is 'par for the course' to make such ads is the bigger problem. Modi and the BJP are singularly responsible for this!”
Former Indian Express editor-in-chief and founder of The Print Shekhar Gupta too did not mince his words. “Zero creativity, wit, humour, class to this, just bad taste. Besides insult to nationalism, patriotism and cricket. That an ad agency will get paid for this crap is a shame,” he quipped.
Activist Shabnam Hashmi was also scathing in her reaction. “You have erased the line between professional advertising and uncultured and grotesque propaganda…if it was still Mahatma’s Gujarat then they (the newspapers) would have refused to publish this, but it is not his Gujarat any longer,” she wrote in anguish. Her sentiment was shared by many Indians who felt that the mocking and trolling of the visitors was unwarranted and graceless.
Many recalled the warm reception that Indian cricket teams have received in Pakistan and their warm hospitality. As hosts, many Indians felt, we should have been more graceful.
Makemytrip wasn’t the only advertiser who tried to be witty. MG (Morris Garages India), an automobile company cheekily posted, “If the Pak batsmen need a ride to the pavilion, we can help… PS: MG Hector can accommodate 7 at a time”.
The partisan crowd at the Narendra Modi stadium was somewhat restrained as long as the top half of Pakistani batsmen seemed to be settling down. But they were largely unresponsive to boundaries hit by the Pakistani batters, prompting former Pakistani fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar to comment sarcastically on the silence in the stadium. Khamoshi Ke Choukey, Akhtar exclaimed.
Sehwag did not miss the opportunity to mock him after Pakistan’s middle order collapsed and they were all out for 191 runs. “Shayad khamoshi ke chauke dekhkar Pakistani batsmen ne jaldi jaldi pavillion lautne ki thaan li. Jhel nahi paaye yaar pressure…haha..Koi nahi Shoaib Bhai. Na Ishq Na Pyaar mein.. Jo Maza 8-0 ki haar mein”, Sehwag tweeted referring to the eighth consecutive defeat of Pakistan against India.
In the stadium Pakistani batsman Rizwan bore the brunt of trolling as he returned to the pavilion after losing his wicket. Chants of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ followed him till he disappeared from view. Referring to the barricaded passage for players secured by wire-nets, an Indian fan exclaimed, “No country has to put bars and cages between spectators and cricketers… that is all I am seeing here. If the screens weren't there, patthar bhi marte.
A few Indian cricket fans were indeed mortified and one of them, Rohan Fernandes, apologised to ‘every Pakistani’ for the boorish behaviour of a section of the spectators in Ahmedabad. This is not India, he sought to reassure them. Others recalled an India-Pakistan match in Chennai, which Pakistan had won but the spectators had offered a standing ovation to the Pakistani team by standing up and clapping. Cricket, they suggested, was a gentleman’s game and assured Pakistanis that they would find Chennai more hospitable.
Others appeared to gloat however. It was obligatory to invite Pakistan to play because the World Cup 2023 is an ICC event; tradition demanded that the visitors are welcomed with garlands, music and dances and treated well-as was done in Ahmedabad. A Gujarati journalist noted that the Pakistani team were having a good time in Ahmedabad…with the “best of non-veg, the best garba, the best spa…”
But outside the hotel in which the Pakistani team were put up, those speaking of ‘Indo-Pak friendship’, she noted, could be bashed up. A Surat restaurant’s ‘India-Pakistan Food festival’ was rudely disrupted by an aggressive and abusive crowd, which set fire to the banner.
One of the spectators, Anuj Bhuwania posted, "I have watched India and Pakistan play in Lahore, Bangalore, Adelaide, Cape Town, Johannesburg, and now Ahmedabad, and never has a cricket ground felt so hopelessly lacking in something so essential: the absolute absence of one group of fans."
A visiting Pakistani journalist could not hide his disappointment. “Pathetic crowd. Typical mindset. It looks like Pakistan is playing behind closed doors; when they hit a boundary, not a single clap or appreciation….,”
Indian cricket fans commiserated and recalled a match in 1999. “Chennai. Pakistan defeated India by 12 runs in a thrilling match. Everyone in the stadium, though heartbroken, gave them a standing ovation for the excellent cricket they played. That’s how civilised people behave. They don’t chant religious slogans in a sports stadium to mock the rival team”.