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The Rediff Cricket Special/Faisal Shariff in Rawalpindi

Bowled over by Karachi crowds

March 15, 2004

Vishal Mavani had reason to fear.

To wear an Indian flag when you're seated amongst 32,000 frenzied Pakistani fans in Pakistan isn't the smartest thing to do.

An electronics dealer from Dadar in Mumbai, Vishal was in two minds when he decided to wear a T-shirt that had the Indian flag printed on it on the morning of the first One-Day International between India and Pakistan at Karachi on Saturday.

Indian and Pakistani fans together in Karachi"I was a bit scared, wondering what would happen if the Pakistanis did badly during the game. Then when India began smashing the Pakistani bowlers around, I was sure of being targeted. But, surprisingly, nothing of that sort happened. In fact, the Pakistanis were applauding the Indian batsmen when they were hitting boundaries.

"I have just been won over by the Pakistanis. These guys are simply great and wonderful hosts," he says.

The Indian players and officials accompanying the team too have dished out similar statements since landing in Pakistan, but to hear something like this from a fan who does not have to sound politically correct is refreshing.

And Vishal is not in a club of one.

Samsung, the official sponsors of the one-day series, has flown down a hundred of its dealers to watch the games. And, indeed, it's been a delight for each of them.

Jayesh Mehta is from Mumbai. For him the trip to Pakistan is nothing short of a dream.

Also See

Fans have a ball - Images from the first ODI

"Sitting in the stands here [in Karachi] and watching Pakistan play India is more like a wish granted. I don't think I'll ever ask for anything else when it comes to cricket. I'm still wondering whether this is really happening or not," he said.

Jayesh says the crowds have bowled him over.

"The moment they [the Pakistanis] find out you are an Indian fan they make sure you are alright. I have probably clicked more pictures here with my Pakistani friends than I have in the last two years," he says.

Jaideep Bhalla (name changed on request) is in Karachi with his wife and son to visit relatives, but the cricket mania forced them to turn up for the first One-Day International.

"This has been an unbelievable experience. We had no idea what we were going to miss. We were contemplating selling our tickets but our relatives told us not to," said Bhalla.

Though Pakistani supporters were disappointed by the narrow defeat, they were more than gracious to stand up and applaud the Indians.

Shanawaz Hussain, a hotelier who sat next to a group of Indians in the stands, said he stood up to congratulate Indian fans as soon as their team won the match.

"Aisa match sirf India-Pakistan ke darmiyan ho sakta hai [Such matches can only be played between India and Pakistan]," he said.

Taxi driver Nabil echoed similar sentiments. "Ek Pakistani dil bhi agar judta hai kisi Hindustani dil se, to woh bahut hai. Siyasatdaro ne hame bahut alag kar ke dekh liya, ab ham milkar aagey chalenge, [It is enough even if one Pakistani wins an Indian heart. Politicians have tried their best to keep us apart, but we'll get together and prosper]," he said.


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