One thing is guaranteed these days when an India-Pakistan match is around the corner — TV channels from both countries get hold of ex-players and link TV shows across the border in an attempt to spice up the encounter as if it requires added “tharka”.
Usually these shows try to rile things up in an attempt to create a confrontation of sorts; it normally starts off with friendly banter between the players and inevitably ends up with someone losing their temper. These shows are commonly referred to as “takra” (clash). From sports channels to news channels to local cable channels, everyone jumps on to this bandwagon. After all, there is nothing more lucrative than an India-Pakistan encounter on either side of the border.
There have been instances of mammoth claims being made, bets range from “You will have to treat us to biryani if you lose” to “Mai apna muh kala karwalounga (I will paint my face black) if we lose”. After the match finishes, often the environment gets more frenzied. Whoever wins makes sure the other side gets a fair battering; taunts and provocations often result in politically incorrect stuff bordering on plain offensive being said.
And all these are just one part of all that goes on in the background before the match.
With social media becoming all-pervasive, players are often delivered messages by fans, some in support and some direct threats in case of a loss.
Pakistan’s greatest Twenty20 spinner, Saeed Ajmal, thinks it becomes a little too much.
“Cricket is a sport and it should be taken as such. Fans shouldn’t completely go berserk in case of a victory and neither should they attack players personally in case of a defeat. Sometimes there is even talk of stoning someone’s house which is just absurd,” he told Firstpost.
Ajmal has been part of numerous Pakistan-India encounters. He did taste victory against the Men in Blue in a bilateral ODI series but couldn’t break Pakistan’s curse against India in ICC events (ICC world Cups and ICC world T20s) despite decent personal performances.
“There is obviously a lot of pressure surrounding an India-Pakistan match. It gets even more when the two teams meet in a world event. I believe a lot of the pressure is added on by the media. The players are told what might happen to them if they lose, and it gets out of hand”, said Ajmal.
A Pakistan-India match is like no other. If it gives sweaty palms to the ex-players sitting on TV channels, imagine what goes on in the minds of the 22 men actually playing the match.
Back in the 90s, Pakistan used to dominate India but lost three out of three matches in World Cups. Often in world events, it feels as if Pakistan players have too much to lose and they invariably play with fear which is pretty evident in their performance. You see half-hearted shots being played, fielders shying away from hotspot positions. It is even more evident in the current generation.
With Pakistan media growing exponentially over the last decade and a half, cricketers are often under the microscope for every single thing they do; sometimes ‘breaking news’ is about a player having biryani somewhere.
In such an environment, Ajmal believes there is a way the media can actually help the team.
“The media should behave more responsibly. If the players are told that they will be abused, that they will face the wrath of the entire country and will be humiliated by all and sundry in case of a defeat, they can’t be relaxed and if they are not in a relaxed state of mind, how do you expect them to perform?
“If positivity surrounds the team and encouraging messages are sent to our boys through the media and the fans, Pakistan will play like tigers and I see no reason why we can’t beat India in that case,” he said.
Recently, Shahid Afridi was ostracised by Pakistan media for making a seemingly innocuous statement about the support he receives from Indian fans. Imagine what would happen to him if he doesn’t perform against India and Pakistan end up losing! Imagine the mental strain these players have to go through.
“Fans and media should see players as human beings who have families and friends, personal attacks are completely unwarranted”, said Ajmal. Despite his plea, this trend is not going to change overnight. Everyone wants to exploit the most sellable commodity in the country.
The pressure for Pakistan players is compounded by a constant reminder of the dreaded “world events curse.” Ajmal and many other cricketers believe that such an encounter can be won if you picture a win and lust for the rewards it brings instead of fearing defeat and thinking about the consequences.
This is another chance for Pakistan to lust the rewards of victory; another “mauqa mauqa” ad is running on TV. This might finally be Pakistan’s day but that can only happen if they can hold their nerve.
A Pakistan-India world event match requires far more than mere skill. Even when Pakistan used to out-skill India in most departments, India managed to hold their nerves.
From Aamir Sohail losing his temper to dropping Sachin Tendulkar numerous times, Pakistan fans have seen their team completely lose nerve and calm against India. No matter what happens on Saturday, the “takra” shows will have a field day and no matter who loses, the TV channels will win.