I watched Pakistan scare the Kangaroos
As I boarded the flight to Colombo to watch Pakistan play Australia, I wondered why I was going.
All the matches I had ever seen Pakistan play in a stadium dating back to 1987, we had lost. Also, we were playing the mighty Australians who were on an unbeaten 34 match streak.
I comforted myself with the thought that the unpredictable Pakistan could tame the Australians.
There were so many Pakistanis in Colombo that it seemed like I was in Karachi or Lahore. The second I told anyone I was from Pakistan, they assumed I was there to watch the match and wished the Pakistan team the very best.
Before we left for the stadium on Saturday, I saw a banner that said it all:
Pakistani brethren, welcome to a home away from home. You stood by us in the 1996 World Cup when others refused to play in Sri Lanka. We stand by you now.
And, indeed, they stood by us. A full stadium at the R Premadasa Stadium had scores of enthusiastic fans supporting Pakistan.
They cheered our national anthem, breathed a sigh of relief as Kamran Akmal took catches, jeered Ricky Ponting as he stood his ground after a clear edge and showed their disappointment as Afridi skied unnecessarily to Brett Lee.
Then the celebrations started.
There was sporadic dancing by the Sri Lankan youth outside the stadium, where cheers of “Pakistan Zindabad!” could be heard.
The trip took on a different meaning when we met the Pakistani team at the hotel. They were happy to give autographs, take pictures and answer questions. They were at their courteous and humble best.
The Australians were there too. But the players refused to have their pictures taken simply saying “no pictures in the hotel”. We thought they were being rude and muttered “sore losers” but then I realised why they were being careful.
As the Pakistani players sat down, chatted and relaxed in the company of their loyal fans, we saw a stern looking gora take notes and even saw him make a sketch.
Suddenly, I realised why the Australians were so distrustful of ‘friendly’ Pakistanis.
Though there may not have been anything to worry about, people like Mazhar Majeed have cast an ugly shadow over the game.
I truly treasure the warm gestures of my team’s players and I hope they will be more careful and follow the anti-corruption codes of the ICC.
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