Virat Kohli’s dazzling drives will face stiff competition from Harmanpreet Singh’s powerful dragflicks on a rarest of rare occasion when national teams are pitted against Pakistan in cricket and hockey on the same day in a third country. Within 55 miles of each other, Indian cricket team will meet their arch rivals at the Oval in London while hockey team will lock horns with Pakistan at the suburb Milton Keynes. It’s a rarity when national passion and national sport will be jostling for attention from sporting aficionados within a gap of three and half hours. Whether it is seven hours of cricket with its ebbs and flows or the 60 minute of adrenaline pumping stickwork, the contests will not be devoid of excitement.
The ‘desis’ as British Indians are referred in this part of the world will be in attendance along with their Pakistani counterparts in what can be termed as a sporting carnival on a Super Sunday. While Bollywood brigade, political class are expected to be in attendance at the more glamorous event, the Hockey World League (HWL) Semi-Finals encounter is also expected to grab eyeballs. For those, who won’t get the tickets for the cricket match, they can travel an hour up north to Milton Keynes to see Manpreet Singh’s deft skills, SV Sunil’s searing runs down wide right. It will also be an occasion where the love for hockey that many profess during coffee table conversations will be tested.
Call it Pakistan’s decapitated sporting structure and India’s rapid strides, the gulf between neighbouring nations have widened across sporting disciplines. Harsh but truth is that against Pakistan, the rivalry is an idea borne out of all the acrimony that has festered on for years now. The sporting rivalry against Pakistan is an idea that ignites a certain surge of rage and nationalism in Indian public. Gone are those days when a victory against a Pakistan cricket side comprising Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram and Salim Malik used to evoke a tremendous sense of satisfaction.
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Similarly, beating a Pakistan hockey side that had Shahbaz Ahmed, Tahir Zaman or later Sohail Abbas or Rehan Butt would feel special. An average Indian fan knew the names of those iconic Pakistani cricketers or hockey players. But today, if Azhar Ali or Hasan Ali walks down the street, one can bet his last shirt that seven out of 10 Indian fans will need a third or fourth glance to recognise. The names in Pakistan sides don’t intimidate the Indian teams or it’s fans anymore. They can scare India occasionally and that can be tomorrow. But that’s about it. But it’s a contest that no one wants to lose. Or rather one can ill-afford to lose.