What if Pakistan wins the WC semi-final...
Sections of the Congress party have quietly voiced their resentment over Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's invitation to the Pakistani leadership to watch the India-Pakistan World Cup semi-final clash at Mohali.
They say this invitation has hyped up the entire atmospherics of the game, even more than the all out play given to it by television news channels, who are focussing on the coming match to the exclusion of everything else.
According to these Congress leaders, the problem will arise if Pakistan wins the semi final. They will then move to Mumbai to play the final and with the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008 still fresh in the memory of the city, the actual acoustics of the city may not be as happy as people will like to believe.
They say the problem is that cricket is much more than a game in the sub continent; that too a clash between India and Pakistan.
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Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh interacting with media persons
PM pushing his own agenda on Pakistan through cricket?
While this could still be seen in a reasonable light, sources say the fact that the prime minister has decided to push his own agenda on Pakistan through the cricket match has given a different dimension to the entire sport, by taking it from the category of sports to politics, diplomacy and an attempt to end the cold war between the two countries, triggered following the Mumbai terror attack.
Sources say that with Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik publicly warning the Pakistani cricketers to stay away from match fixing and concentrate purely on winning the game for Pakistan during the mega semi-final encounter, a new public buzz has been let loose on the entire match fixing controversy.
The talk on match fixing and betting by both syndicates and individuals used to be in hushed tones but with the Pakistani minister treatening his team with dire consequences and letting it be known that the government was keeping a close watch on them, their movements, their telephones, their friends and acquaintances, a bigger dimension has been added to the game, which has been hijacked by politicians for increasing their own numbers, said a senior leader.
Image: Pakistan cricket captain Shahid Afridi
Photographs: Andrew Biraj/Reuters
Congress wary of the emotions running high
Even though both the countries have raised their stake in the Mohali match, it is unlikely to affect the betting mafia.
Sources say that at a conservative estimate, the semi-final clash between the two neighbours is likely to generate betting business worth over than Rs 200 crores.
These betting rings operate from London, Dubai, Mumbai, Ahmedabad (which is seen as a centre of big time betting), Kolkata and even Indore.
With so much money riding on one match for the bookies and with emotions running high in both India and Pakistan, it is not surprising that a section of the Congress party is wary at the manner in which Dr Singh is seeking to use cricket to build his own agenda on resuming the Indo-Pak dialogue.
Has Dr Singh forgotten November 2008?
In this context, it would be pertinent to note what Sunil Gavaskar, himself a Mumbaikar, had to say on a talk show when he was asked whether Pakistan would lose the semi-final.
He said, "I doubt whether Pakistan would lose the Mohali game; Pakistanis have a special fascination for Mumbai. They keep sneaking into Mumbai by whatever route they can find and which is available. So I would not be surprised if they do it again and reach Mumbai again."
Certainly a hard hitting left hand drive from the little master who comes from a city where the wounds of 2008 carnage have still not healed, a fact which Dr Singh seems to have forgotten about.
Photographs: Philip Brown/Reuters