Each Saturday, I walk past soccer and baseball fields to reach the nearby farmer’s market. This morning, as I cross the main road and enter the park, I stop in my tracks. In the field where children usually practice baseball, I see a sight that I haven’t encountered in the US: two wickets, a man holding a cricket bat, and a bowler getting ready to spin the ball. South Asian men scatter around the field, preparing to catch the ball.
While growing up in Karachi, I used to skip school to watch test matches in Karachi Stadium, but it’s been a long time since I’ve paid attention to the game. However, even I know that tomorrow will be an electrifying day in the cricket world: Pakistan will face off against India in the International Cricket Council’s finals at UK’s Oval. The Pakistani team is a surprise entrant into the final—the team is ranked eighth out of eight. Of course, a final contains high stakes, on top of which any time India and Pakistan play each other, rivalry is bound to arise, especially since over the past decade, the teams have played few matches against each other. During my childhood, Pakistani and Indian teams regularly crossed the border to play against each other, but since the 2007 Mumbai bombing in which Pakistan-based terrorists were implicated, and the 2009 Lahore bombing in which six Sri Lankan players were injured, Pakistan has been declared unsafe to host international games and the team has struggled to improve its ranking and morale.
Watching the cricket players in Victory Park, I realize that they set up wickets in anticipation of tomorrow’s game, which is bound to evoke national hysteria on both sides of the India-Pakistan border. Later today all around the globe, people will turn on televisions at different parts of the night so they can watch each minute of a match that could be boring, or just as easily, a gripping experience.
17 Jun 2017 · 10:21:21 PM
6/19/17 Update: In a dramatic upset, Pakistan raced to victory by a lead of 180 runs; click here to read writer Kamila Shamsie’s story about the game.