March 30th, 2011
03:40 PM ET

When cricket means more than just a match ...

Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar drives his team forward against rivals Pakistan.
Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar drives his team forward against rivals Pakistan.

Sometimes a sporting event is more than just a game. Sometimes the arena for competition is emblematic and symbolic of a greater reality, in which the twists and turns of a match carry a wider significance.

And so it was for the titanic clash between India and Pakistan in the semifinal of the cricket World Cup; a tie that needed no artificially created hype. Giants of the sport going head-to-head for a place in the final as two nations, both equally obsessed with the game, saw millions become engrossed with the drama unfolding on a circle of grass in Mohali.

And the celebratory spirit of the event was remarkable given the backdrop of recent relations between to the two Asian rivals. The uneasy neighbors have fought three wars since the blood-soaked partition of the subcontinent in 1947, and recent peace talks were shattered in November 2008 when ten gunmen attacked Mumbai, killing 164 people and wounding hundreds more.

India blamed Pakistan for harboring terrorists as political relationships disintegrated. And all seemed bleak until a game of cricket intervened.

Earlier this week India's prime minister used the semifinal showdown as a vehicle for diplomacy, inviting his Pakistani counterpart to watch the first match between the countries since "26/11" – which is how Indians refer to that deadly day.

Seemingly only cricket, often referred to as a "religion" or being "like God" in the parts of Mumbai I have visited, was enough to focus collective minds on what unites rather than divides.

And if cricket is a religion, it is easy to identify its gods. Local hero Sachin Tendulkar cleared the streets of his home city Mumbai as he closed in on a century in Mohali. When he was out before reaching three figures, you could hear a low rumble as a nation collectively groaned.

That would have included Akhilesh Chaturvedi, a patient at the Fortis hospital on the outskirts of the city. He brought forward his spine surgery so it wouldn't clash with the match, and he will have watched the semifinal from his bed as he recovers.

One of the official World Cup sponsors, Reliance, gave workers in their Infrastructure division the day off, while others simply left their offices early short before the afternoon start. Cinema chains, bars, clubs and restaurants were all showing the action – many charging for tickets to control demand.

And even in one of Asia's largest slums, Dharavi – featured in the movie "Slumdog Millionaire" – saw people crowding into whichever ram-shackle hut had a telly.

The poverty and deprivation visible in a place like Dharavi is often physically shocking. And yet, any concerns about food or sanitation were brushed to one side as India and Pakistan went head-to-head.

No doubt there were similar scenes of passion in Pakistan. Two nations, united by their love of cricket, no matter how distant the relationship between their respective governments.

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Filed under:  Cricket
soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. Mehdi +917827888670

    This is what cricket is. India Vs Pakistan. 'India' you rock :-*

    March 30, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Reply
  2. Sam

    I think you mean Dharavi when you mention Dhavali in this post

    March 30, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Reply
  3. Prashanth

    This is a very crucial match and it has lived up to the hype. Though currently the match is tilted towards India's favor, we still couldn't be sure. A couple of good overs for Pakistan and the tides can turn. I hope India wins this. That said, I like to think that it is the people of both these wonderful nations who win at the end. It's a good ploy by our prime minister to initiate the peace process, if it could be called so and equally good on the Pakistan's part to accept it. This would be a very good blow for the terrorists who have been working in separating these twin nations.

    March 30, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Reply
  4. Carter

    Cricket, a way to resolve diplomatic and civil conflict....
    Just like the 1975 film Rollerball.

    March 30, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Reply
  5. shilpy

    this nuttiness over cricket, a colonial hangover, shows indian leaders lack imagination in getting a handle over serious the burning issue of terror. this game trivilizes terror, aka pakistani diplomacy. it is dishonoring those killed on 26/11. needless to say i did not watch the game,

    March 30, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Reply
  6. iRv Bills

    From Zim boy.. Congs. to India

    March 30, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Reply
  7. Cal

    One of my best cricket matches ever!!!!!..Memorable history!!!! Disappointed for God not able to make century!!! SACHIN

    March 30, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Reply
  8. jay

    India has overtaken Pakistan by the roadside in every field of progress, be it science, technology, economy and what not. It is secular, democratic and forward looking. Pakistan is a declared Islamic state and famous for only one thing – creation of terrorists. Naturally Pakis are suffering from a serious case of jealousy and hatred against India!
    Unfortunately they have no way out. To achieve comparable progress, they have get rid of their Islamic Sheria constitution, which is impossible given the level of education and culture.

    March 30, 2011 at 6:56 pm | Reply
  9. chitralekha Rathore

    I have pakistani friends and Indian friends as well ofcourse. I Saw some very insulting comments and pictures on Indian's walls for Pakistanis and vice versa.
    Yes it unites Indians and Pakistani's bt against each other...
    Is that a religion...??

    March 30, 2011 at 7:03 pm | Reply
  10. Muhammad

    Its WRONG to assume every1 in Pakistan was excited as implied by the news.

    I for one believe we should refuse to do anything with India until IT stops terrorism against people of occupied Kashmir

    March 30, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Reply
  11. SOmeone

    What was need to mention Dharavi...isn't New York too the biggest dwelling for largest number of homeless and poors in the world?

    Does that get mentioned when Green Bay Packers wins super bowl?

    Why to connect that with this...come out of this biased and racial mentality and accept that India is going to be an economic super power and you cant stop that by any means.

    March 30, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Reply
  12. Abhijit

    Thats it.....Pak PM came India to receive their players back...:)

    March 30, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Reply
  13. apollo dsouza

    Cricket is a game and whether India or Pakistan looses it should be taken into the spirit of the game. Having said this, India should never forget that Pakistan is a nation that has some undesirable traits. Their intolerance towards other religions is one of them. We are a secular nation by writ though admittedly thee are excesses. However, the law respects the equality of every man, the freedom of speech and expression that is missing in Pakistan

    March 30, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Reply
  14. Jiminy

    Chill Out Shilpy. It's just a game but if it eases tensions between two nuclear powers you can hardly complain!

    March 30, 2011 at 8:49 pm | Reply
  15. Nellore S. Venkataraman

    Let us face the truth. India is mighty both militarily and economically compared to Pakistan. But Pakistan has neutralized India's military superiority with its nuclear arsenal. Because of MAD–mutually assured destruction, neither India or Pakistan can start a war and hope that it will remain conventional. It is high time both countries resolve the Kashmir problem with some give and take. Then both can slash their military budgets considerably and India can become an economic superpower and Pakistan can be an economic power house also.

    March 30, 2011 at 9:49 pm | Reply
  16. Munna

    The Indo-Pak game is always more than just a game.It is an event that is celebrated and normal citizens go over board to welcom the guests form across the border ...gates of hospitality are opened.It really shows there is no enemosity that the there with the normal public ,but the politics makes it worse.

    March 30, 2011 at 9:53 pm | Reply
  17. Well done India.

    Did Sachin deserve to be the man of the match after being dropped a few times as early as on 27? Wahab Riaz must have had the honours with 5 wickets to his name.

    March 30, 2011 at 10:26 pm | Reply
  18. Rohan Singh

    I second this one by 'SOmeone':

    What was need to mention Dharavi...isn't New York too the biggest dwelling for largest number of homeless and poors in the world?

    Does that get mentioned when Green Bay Packers wins super bowl?

    Why to connect that with this...come out of this biased and racial mentality and accept that India is going to be an economic super power and you cant stop that by any means.

    March 30, 2011 at 11:12 pm | Reply
  19. Vipin Rastogi

    India won, but a 29 run victory is hardly to go crazy for. A billion people rejoicing over this paper thin victory. Could the match be fixed before being played? Who knows?

    March 31, 2011 at 1:45 am | Reply
  20. shalini

    Shilpy take a chill pill.....if you didn't watch the match, its your loss. The rest of India would like to soak in the joy of beating Pakistan!

    March 31, 2011 at 2:06 am | Reply
  21. Melvin Joseph

    Appreciate CNN's coverage on cricket. But why bring in Dharavi and concerns about food and sanitation?Totally out of context.

    March 31, 2011 at 2:17 am | Reply
  22. Arun

    It was a biggest cricketing stage, and billions enjoyed the game. But you guys reporting on such a big occasion had to bring poverty, slums, slumdog millionaire into it??? Stereotyping at its best, you missed Jai ho you could have included that as well in the report. Pity your article didn't live up to the title.

    March 31, 2011 at 2:47 am | Reply
  23. Usman

    I am amazed, here is an article on CNN in which there is no senseless Pakistan bashing? How is this possible? Could it be that Pakistan is a normal country that has its own issues to resolve like any other country?

    The whole western world is trying to demonise and destroy Pakistan, and look at what joy they've brought to their neighbours and to the world. Hope it continues like this.

    March 31, 2011 at 3:28 am | Reply
  24. Fractal

    Sports fanaticism is all too familiar all across the planet. But Indo-pak sports events, by the virtue of history filled with full of animosity, take it to one level above fanaticism as the players get severely stressed in performing their art, and not just tensed audiences (i.e., 1.5 billion of them or 20% of the global population.) It is rather sorry to see even veteran players getting dragged in to the pressure cooker. It is mentally, physically and emotionally draining, and, as such, it is not as enjoyable/healthy as when it is played in a relaxed setting. Congratulations to the Indian team, and applauds to the Pakistan team for their performance in the tournament.

    March 31, 2011 at 3:40 am | Reply
  25. MJ

    It was a splendid game ..Every one at my work place where holding their work and concentrating with so much pressure about the match.
    It was a relief when India finally won. Pakistan definitely gave a neck to neck match for Indians today . Both the teams deserve a round of applause. Coming to the relations between two nations Its a whole new story like other end of the globe. Its always okay and be sportive in the game but what has happened 26/11 , other terrorist attacks ,hijacks,, J& K unresolved issues...cannot be overseen . Every dog has its day...

    March 31, 2011 at 4:10 am | Reply
  26. Ashok Panda

    DID Sachin Deserve to be the man of the match? what a stupid question? Did you ask the same question to cnn, did Sachin picture deserve in this news/blogs? why they didnt put Wahab Riaz picture? Sachin 85 runs make India to win. Sachin presence in the team itself a presure to the other team. I pray god to get WC for Sachin, the person who has given his best every time. As a man and as a player he is best. Appreciate every one but it doesn't mean, you can ignore some one who playing his best.

    Jai Hind..

    March 31, 2011 at 4:30 am | Reply
  27. AJ

    Indian star batsmen have to learn how to let go balls outside their reach (given that the footwork of some them is suspect)! Sehwag would have been out on the first ball of the match, taking a swipe at a ball that was way beyond his normal reach. After that he delightedthe crowd with 5 boundaries in an over – but many times he overdoes a shot (like the one he got lbw) and needs to learn to be patient.

    March 31, 2011 at 5:06 am | Reply
  28. Mubarak

    We love u pakistan. . . No matter wether u losed match or won.
    Love u alot.
    We are the best nation almost many acts

    March 31, 2011 at 5:29 am | Reply
  29. O. Richard

    .... this is what we says; 'A CRICKET', best of luck to PAK & INDIA's viewers.

    March 31, 2011 at 5:46 am | Reply
  30. vijay

    Congrats to India....

    March 31, 2011 at 6:52 am | Reply
  31. nikhil

    INDAI VS PAKISTAN- the biggest sporting rivalry on the planet.

    for of those of you who dnt know this game, let me say it desnt get bigger than this. the biggest rivalry in world sport is not ENG Vs ARGENTINA or IRAN VS ISRAEL. where else would you see 2 nuclear powers and arch rivals battle it out !!
    i must admitt its more than a game. not to mention that it was a world cup semi-final and prime ministers of both countries were present. the atmosphere was electrifying and we saw a terrific match. i am from the town where the match was being played and even though i cudnt get a ticket we all cud feel the tention in our bones.
    kudos INDIA.

    March 31, 2011 at 11:28 am | Reply
  32. anthony karanja

    congratulations to india on the win.In kenya n probably in other african countries excluding (south africa and zimbabwe),we dont have a clue on cricket.We fail to see the excitement,tension and adrenaline associated with football.Probably its because cricket is played the whole day with players breaking for tea.

    I.C.C hasn't done enough to popularise the game in soccer mud countries in africa .We would rather watch the english premier league which is more popular in africa than cricket.

    March 31, 2011 at 11:54 am | Reply
  33. Amyn Lakhani

    Indians played well. I am from Pakistan and we have great respect for Sachin. He is a super batsman, but in this match he was extremely lucky. He was not reading Saeed Ajmal propoerly and was dropped by our best fielders four times. Even the umpire decision for LBW was reversed becoz the ball was missing the stumps by less than a inch, and then the stumps appeal was also missed by a frame. As the commentators said, he was himself very embarrased by the quality of his batting. I think, Wahab Riaz deserved the man of the match. Anyway, great cricket!! There is surely no sports event in the world which is followed by more people than Ind/Pak cricket match

    March 31, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Reply
  34. trueblue0911

    sachin should play for a victory over sri lanka & not think about scoring 100th century.he should play for the team first and i think he will do so.this is india's best chance to win the world cup thanks to coach gary

    April 2, 2011 at 8:16 am | Reply
  35. gopi

    good win for India, felt sorry for Pakistan team ( one more WC defeat), at the same time con't imagine India's loose. thank you all for this win

    April 3, 2011 at 8:22 pm | Reply
  36. sandeep

    cricket Passion for this country just like football to western world i think indo pak match is quite interesting and mind blowing india win is good but it is game that win

    April 4, 2011 at 5:14 am | Reply
  37. sandeep

    cricket is a Passion for this country just like football to western world i think indo pak match is quite interesting and mind blowing india win is good but it is game that win

    April 4, 2011 at 5:17 am | Reply
  38. Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Winning or losing is secondary. We need to have more Indo-Pak cricket encounters in the sub-continent.

    April 4, 2011 at 8:37 pm | Reply
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