This is truly the season of cricket. Last weekend, if there was one thing the Pakistanis were madly tweeting and posting on Facebook about, it was cricket.
Even though the country’s national sport remains hockey — and the teenagers’ perennial favourite is soccer — it is cricket that drives the masses crazy.
The situation is no different in India where, they say, nothing sells on top of cricket and Bollywood. No wonder when the two cricket-crazed neighbours — who are also arch political rivals — play against each other, it translates into a TV as well as online audience of (reportedly) “billion people.”
The cricket ground becomes the metaphorical battlefield, where the ‘war’ is fought, while the crowds inside the stadium roar and cheer at every wicket lost or gained by their respective teams.
The same feverish spirit was on show Sunday when thousands of desis from different parts of England descended on Old Trafford, in Manchester, ahead of the big clash between India and Pakistan in the Cricket World Cup 2019.
The VIP enclosures were packed with sports and showbiz celebrities from both the countries who had flown in especially for the event. Prominent Pakistanis who were spotted on the occasion included Ali Zafar, Mawra Hocane, and Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the country’s Minister for Foreign Affairs. Qureshi, a seasoned politician, even joined Zafar for chitchat.
Zafar also got to mingle with the 1990s’ popular Indian actress and singer Raageshwari Loomba (remember ‘Feeling hot, hot, hot’?). Later, the Teefa In Trouble star summed up his interaction with Loomba as “very good.”
He regretted that he couldn’t find the time to catch up with his ‘Kill Dil’ co-star Ranveer Singh who was in the stadium as well.
On the same day, thousands of miles away, in Dallas, Texas, USA, a number of Pakistan TV actors had just landed. They were supposed to play friendly cricket matches in different cities, organised jointly by AJ Entertainment and Sun Glow, both private companies, with local teams. The actors’ team, called Showbiz XI, boasted such big names as Humayun Saeed, Fahad Mustafa, Farhan Ali Agha, Noman Habib, Syed Jibran, and Asim Mehmood. It is interesting to note that Saeed, Habib, and Mehmood were all part of 2013’s successful feature, Main Hoon Shahid Afridi (I Am Shahid Afridi), which was based on a bunch of street cricketers.
Showbiz XI was captained by Tehseen Javed. The team won the first match famously by 99 runs. Their second match is due in Houston, and the final in Chicago. The tournament ends on June 24.