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India Vs Pakistan Cricket World Cup 2019 India Vs Pakistan Cricket World Cup 2019 Old Trafford,

Updated: Jun 21, 2020

June 16 2019


I woke up in the morning alright.

Just.

For us to reach the stadium on time, we had to start early. On any given day, it is easily three hours long drive from London to Manchester. The game was to start at 1030 and therefore, for attending the National anthems, we HAD to hit the road at no later than 5 AM.

In my more mature years, I have stopped using an alarm clock to wake up at a given time. I sleep with the waking up time in my mind, and usually, my internal body clock wakes me up just around that time. Whether I wake up at this natural stimulus OR go back to sleep 'to complete the dream sequence' is however entirely a different matter!

At this occasion also, I woke up at 3 AM. Relieved to note that I still had an hour plus, I happily went back to complete my dream. Working my way through my stay in Multan, visiting the AFIRI radiology department, seeing a host of juniors, I was having a lively gup-shup round with a junior from 13th batch when I woke up with a start to see the time of 0445!!

Shocked at how quickly time had flown, I got through my morning routines and was downstairs just before 0500. Sohail and Nadeem bhais, (my cousins from the US who had made the journey only to see Pakistan in action after years of watching them only on the TV) were thankfully ready (I suspect mainly because of their jet lags!). We therefore successfully completed our objective of hitting the motorway just before 5 AM.

So far so good.

I am afraid, that was all the good that happened for rest of the day!

We reached Manchester at 0900 (after 30 minutes stop enroute on the Motorway service station for a breakfast break). Motorway M6 was closed between junctions 2 and 4 and therefore we joined this via A 50 from near Stoke. The detour probably added only ten minutes to our travel time (advantages of following Google maps navigation!).

In Manchester, we found a safe parking slot and walked to the Old Trafford ground. The surroundings were bustling with supporters of the two teams. The threatening clouds were in the air but on ground it was all hustle and bustle. Indian fans were clearly outnumbering the green supporters by a factor of 10 to one. We were greeted by a group of Pakistan supporters who warned us about the overwhelming Indian fan base inside the ground. It was however very jovial and surprisingly friendly between the fans inside the ground. Fact that the fans spoke a common language, shared thousands of years of history and cultural ties meant that there were no barriers between them. They could talk to each other, share jokes, sing songs and enjoy the day.

Outside the stadium, we saw the 'Sheikh from Pakistan' a portly gentleman clad in Arabic dress, riding a healthy white horse waving a Green and White flag and the famous 'Chacha' Cricket atop a double decker bus.


In the stadium, we bought the team shirts and then found our seats which were only in the second row from the boundary ropes. That meant that we could be very 'up close and personal' with the third man fielders which during the day were Hasan Ali, Whahab Riaz, Bhumra and Rahul. Always surprised to see the trim physique of modern athletes. They all came across as solemn and sober with serious somewhat aloof countenance.

The thing that would stay with me from this game would be the jolly fans and the pleasant interactions that we had amongst us. We shared chants, jokes, shouting matches, songs and food with each other. The kids from both sides were starry eyed, hardly believing that the athlete that just waved at them was none other than Shikhar Dhawan. That the fielder who just caught an amazing catch was the famous Babar Azam and that the fielder who made a sliding stop to a fiercely struck boundary was Virat himself!!

Pakistan of course lost the match and lost pretty comprehensively.

After winning the toss, we should have batted first. Fakhar Zaman should have thrown the ball at the keeper's end to run Rohit Sharma out, Sarfraz should have bowled Wahab Riaz in place of Hasan Ali and Shoaib Malik should have made way for Haris Sohail. Result still would not have been any different from what actually did happen yesterday. Yes, it might have been more competitive. But that is the maximum that I am allowing this comparison to go to.

Gulf between Indian and Pakistani athletes you see, is HUGE. This Indian team is far more talented and fit than their Pakistani neighbours. Bumrah is incredibly skilled. Bhuvanishwar has the amazing ability to nip the ball at a lively pace. Yadav has the un natural ability to break the ball on a surface at which no one apart from his team mate Chahal could generate even a tiny degree of lateral movement (His ball to get rid of the dangerous Babar Azam, a peach of a googly, was easily the turning point of the day- pardon the pun!). And their batting has always been head and shoulders above us. It is however their fielding that has really shown improvement that has made them much beyond recognition. We were led to believe that the Asian genes could never develop the athletic nimbleness that made for world class fielding units. The present Indian team has however laid all those theories to rest. Days of a portly Vishwanath and plump Yashpal Sharma are long gone. Present Indian team is as slick and smart as any other modern sports team. Dhoni, behind the stumps, despite his senior years, is as alert as ever. Cool and composed, nothing escapes his razor sharp alertness. Virat is a panther in the field, commanding the respect of his team members and the god like status enjoyed by most Indian captains. The present Indian Cricket team has no weakest link. It has developed into a well-oiled, tightly knit and extremely competent unit.

You see, yesterday they lost the toss, were without their first choice opener, lost their attack bowler mid-way through his third over, their captain walked off without being given out and Rohit Sharma gifted away his wicket and they still managed to win. And win by a distance.

This World Cup is India's tournament to lose. They are the clear favourites. It would take a strong England team to play with lots of luck to beat them in the final on 14th July.


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