A small bar in Hong Kong became a microcosm of the cricket stadium Eden Gardens in Kolkata, India on March 19 as arch-rivals Pakistan and India locked horns in a major cricket world cup game, the ICC World Twenty20 2016.
Close to a hundred students of Indian and Pakistani descent were hosted by the HKU South Asian Society (SAS) at Champs Bar in Wan Chai where the match was screened live.
The buzzing and chanting began as soon as the pitch report and toss were broadcasted. The crowd, dressed in either green (Pakistan) or blue (India) to support their teams, naturally split into two camps right afterwards.
For the next three hours, each and every ball was a bit of a spectacle. As Pakistan was forced to bat after losing the toss, every run scored was cheered for by the supporters of Pakistan at the bar, while the Indians enjoyed the colossal number of dot deliveries (nil-run deliveries).
Any shift in odds in favour of either team throughout the game caused an almost palpable surge in enthusiasm as the crowd exchanged friendly banter and chanted slogans in support of their respective teams.
“We did not have space for everyone. The crowd turned up in large numbers,” said Sidharth Agarwal, one of the main organisers of the event. “Such events are platforms for South Asian students to come together and enjoy their favorite sport in a stadium-like environment. This is something they are usually missing out on while studying in foreign countries.”
After the various highs and lows and crucial close calls, the match ended on a high note when the crowd mingled to congratulate and commiserate. India won by 6 wickets with 13 balls remaining.
Hugs and humour followed shortly as the participants exchanged jabs in good spirits in their respective local languages.
“You can never beat us in World Cup matches. The Pakistan team should book their flights and leave, they have no chance”, said Udit Rungta, an undergraduate student from India teasing his Pakistani friends.
“India should worry more about getting into the semi-finals now. I doubt that they will,” shot back Zain ul Abidin from Pakistan.
It seemed that the very sport that made the two countries appear as enemies on the field had also united them off the field.
“Everyone was happy to be together and watched the match in a spirit of sportsmanship,” said Sahil Magoo, a Masters of Journalism student at HKU. “More of such events should be organised to bring the two countries together,” he added.
The result of this match further intensified the points table and paved the way for India to make it to the elimination round of the tournament. Meanwhile, fans of the Pakistan team might have to endure a fair amount of teasing and mocking from their Indian friends until they get another chance at redemption.