In a match that could make history, India will play against Pakistan on October 14 in the Cricket World Cup 2023. Both countries have a shared love for the sport which, coupled with their troubled post-colonial history, can simmer tensions between sports fans of both nations.
You might not be a cricket fan (or even remotely interested in sports), but this is a match you won't want to miss- for many reasons!
Pakistani Cricketers in India
This match marks the first time in seven years that the Pakistani cricket team, led by Babar Azam, will play on Indian soil. The last time Pakistan played against India in India was in 2016. The last time India played against Pakistan on Pakistani soil was in 2006.
Despite simmering geo-political tensions, the Pakistani national cricket team landed in Hyderabad last month to Indian fans eagerly awaiting them, according to CNN. Speaking to reporters in September, Babar Azam, captain of the Pakistani national cricket team, said that being in India didn't feel like he was in a foreign country- "it felt like home."
The Cricket Teams
Despite the political rivalry and geopolitical tensions, both the men's national cricket teams from India and Pakistan have a deep respect for each other. According to the New York Times, "Players from earlier generations often spoke of deep bonds of friendship, sharing fond memories of hospitality and late-night hotel room pranks during times when they could travel to each other’s countries more frequently."
At last year's Women's Cricket World Cup, despite the Indian women's national cricket team, led by Harmanpreet Kaur, beating Pakistan by 107 runs, both teams showed amazing camaraderie and solidarity with one another. Videos of the Indian women's cricket team interacting with Pakistani captain Bismah Maroof's baby went viral, in an adorable and impactful moment with one generation of women cricketers (and hopefully the next!)
Who All Are Watching
The India vs. Pakistan Cricket World Cup match will be one of the most watched sports events this year. Originally named the Motera Stadium, the Narendra Modi Stadium can seat roughly 132,000 people (tickets are sold out!) In addition to everyone watching the match in real life, the match will be streamed live on Hotstar, with audience numbers estimated to be at least a billion people.
Saturday's match between the two countries is another chapter in the troubled history of India and Pakistan, one that has materialized in one of the more epic sports sagas of our times.
The sports rivalry between both countries has given sports enthusiasts all across the world amazing memories that they will never forget. Despite the existing political tensions that exist between India and Pakistan, sports presents an opportunity to build bridges and connect over a shared love of cricket.
Speaking to CNN, Hadeel Obaid commented on the universality of sports, that goes beyond borders and history. "There’s something electric in the air," she said. "It doesn’t matter who you support as a cricket fan, you can appreciate good cricket."
Where Are The Pakistani Fans?
Despite the news reports of hotel prices shooting up, and people booking hospital beds in Ahmedabad for accommodation to go watch the match, one group of fans have been noticeably absent from the discourse. According to CNN, many Pakistani fans of cricket have been unable to get visas to travel to India to see the match live. Abdul Jalil, the mascot of the Pakistani national cricket team and someone who's been watching cricket for 54 years, told CNN that despite having accommodation and tickets, he was unable to get a visa to see this historic match.
Additionally, the early departure of Pakistani sports presenter Zainab Abbas before the historic match made the absence of Pakistani fans felt in the sports coverage of the event as well.
India Vs Pakistan
The limited number of Pakistani fans at today's match is a sign of the historic rivalry between Pakistan and India, one that goes beyond sports. Ever since both countries gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947, both have been embroiled in decades of simmering geo-political tensions and violence, beginning with Partition. Since 1947, India and Pakistan have fought "three wars and introduced heavy restrictions on exchanges of goods or civilians, despite the two countries sharing a border, a culture and a deeply intertwined history," which has played into why many Pakistani fans were unable to get visas (in time, and at all) to go watch the match.
Both countries' shared love for cricket has made relations between both countries more strenuous, but the sport also provides an opportunity to build bridges. Speaking to CNN, Hadeel Obaid, the founder of KheloKricket who didn't apply for a visa because she didn't think she would get it, said that it was clear both cricket teams respected one another, stating that, "the messaging that is out there is impactful, despite the political atmosphere.”
Watch the match live on Hotstar.
Suggested Reading: Why We Must Focus More On Women’s Cricket In India And Pakistan