Blue, with a streak of green. It is unmistakable.
Everywhere you look, the colours of the country are on show. The longer you look, you start noticing the green dots amid the blue ocean. Green and blue is on everyone, everywhere.
The entire ground is dressed in colours. One man wears an Indian flag court jester hat, a traditional Indian vest over an Indian cricket shirt. One young Pakistani seems to be wearing two Pakistan shirts. A mother straightens the Indian shirt of a little girl in her sling. There is a group of fans who have come from Zimbabwe, they wear a shirt of their own design, part India, part Zimbabwe. An older woman wears a fashionable green skirt, which is the exact same colour of the Pakistan 99 World Cup kit.
One man claims to have not worn his India shirt in 30 years. This despite the fact that he does not even look 30, and that coloured shirts weren’t really available then.
Sports fans love a uniform. Sports fans love to belong. This isn’t about sport. This is about identity. This isn’t about sport, or citizenship or even nationality. This is about culture. The India or Pakistan on the chest is a statement of who they are. What they are. Their colour. Them.
“The spirit of this game”, according to Karl Telfer of the Kaurna Clan “unites us”.
It has united them right here in Adelaide. People have come from Singapore, Mumbai, Denver, Lahore, London, San Francisco, Melbourne, Sydney, Florida, Dallas, Michigan and Mombasa. Not for the glory of cricket, but for the glory of India and Pakistan.
The crowd is made up of dental practitioners, accountants, CEOs, CTOs and engineers. Some have paid over six-hundred dollars just to come over from Sydney. One man tells me, “Oh, thousands, I couldn’t even add it all up, and I’m only seeing this one game”.
This one game.
“I’ve come from Dallas”, says one woman. Are you going to another game? “No, just this one”. Her husband then tells her she is going to another game. There are no other games.
There are two types of fans here, and they are often sitting together. A smart dressed man in a turban and smart casual light blue shirt sits next to his mate who is dressed in a Pakistan shirt. The Pakistani fan proudly tells me that he came all the way from Singapore for this game, and that if Pakistan weren’t playing India, he wouldn’t have bothered making the trip. His friend in the smart shirt is from Mumbai, and he would have come regardless. Mr Mumbai is a cricket fan, Mr Singapore is an India-Pakistan fan.
There is a difference. Aman has flown in from Melbourne. Recently, he took his mother to see India play Australia in Tests. She was bored and showed no interest. He tells me that she is loving today. She doesn’t know about the hashtags of #realfinal, or #wewontgiveitback.
She doesn’t know about Mohit Sharma’s late call-up or why Umar Akmal is keeping . She doesn’t know any of the players. She doesn’t need to. For her – for many, in fact – this isn’t about the players. After the game, she won’t be starting Facebook memes about Suresh Raina or RTing funny photos of Pakistanis. She will just be happy or sad.
Many in the crowd are like this. They cheer a ball that Dhawan has played horribly, because it gets a run. The quality of a Pakistani wicket doesn’t change the sound made by the fans.
There are children here as well. Prams are carried up the stairs to seats high up in the stands. The children are too young to understand where they are, or what they are watching. A two-year-old clutches at his father with his hand over his face. He will hardly see a ball. He wouldn’t understand even if he did. Every Pakistani cheer startles him. Every Indian cheer terrifies him. In years to come, his dad will proudly tell him, “You were there”. The memory will be implanted if it has to be.
The new generation isn’t like the last. The younger people don’t have the same level of animosity. They want their team to win. They want it passionately. Loudly. But half of the crowd seems to have at least one friend from the rival-colour clan. A Facebook friend, or a real friend. They study with them. They work with them. They live together. They marry each other.
“Of course the initial jingoism of these games has worn off on me by now”, Alokpi says. “And given how distant I feel from all the players on the Indian team, I’m not really sure I’d be able to muster enough enthusiasm to even root for India all the way in this World Cup. But put me in a room full of Indian fans watching the game and suddenly you might find me eyes bulging and yelling ecstatically, completely caught in a total frenzy.”
When the national anthems are played, almost all the younger people stand for both anthems. Only a few of the older ones sit when it isn’t their anthem. The younger fans film both anthems on their smart phones. These are middle, mostly middle class. It is a different kind of fan. A different kind of fanaticism. They dance like crazy just like the old fans, but they also post to Facebook that they are dancing like crazy. They want to be part of it, they want people to know they are part of it.
Away from the ground, on online forums like Reddit and Quora, people are still part of it.
“You can only know how deeply a single match affected the nation by being a part of it” ashi31 says. “As a muslim nation, the Pakistan cricket and prayers go hand in hand. By the sixth and seventh wicket most of us were busy praying for a miracle rather than paying attention to the match.”
NiX_Nabilz writes, “When Yuvraj Singh was bowled first ball by Wahab at Mohali, you would not believe that not fire crackers, but bullets were fired in the air just like a territory has been conquered, just like a battle has been won.”
“Our mom came and handed over the tea to my brother as usual,” Vinesh Thota writes. “And then our god Sachin was bowled at 93 by Abdul Razzaq. He threw that tea cup out of the window and shouted I will never have tea in my life.”
“People who like sport remember their lives better than those who don’t,” Dan Harris explains in his piece about losing his wife and gaining the Ashes, in the Nightwatchman magazine.
Pakistan-India games are moments in people’s lives they remember forever. Chachachoudhary watched them on a 16-inch TV at a Saras milk parlour. Shriman_Ripley prayed not just for an Indian victory, but for the Indian victory that would inspire his uncle to buy him a samosa. Justarslan celebrated a victory with naan and haleem. Others had family picnics, walked out on job interviews, saw it in a basement, were the only Pakistani surrounded by 70 Indians, sat in a bar, went back home. There is also Kamalfan, who watched it in room 214 with his mate Viki. “I didn’t know he won’t be there for the next India Pak game.”
A game of cricket, a communal life experience. The country remembers it, the culture remembers it, and even those who don’t know how it started feel it all.
“It’s about the history, I don’t real know what actually happened, but the history is there,” a 17-year-old girl says. She tells her friend that her plan is to scream until she loses her voice. She wears her colours. She screams. She will remember this.
The Indian fans raise two fists in unison as the last catch is taken. Behind the stands, many mothers stand holding sleeping children, rocking prams, and one bench has a woman stroking her two kids asleep. She cranes her neck back to look through the entrance to the main stand as the people in blue scream.
This is her memory. One day it will be her kid’s memories as well. This is a cricket match. This is a moment in millions of blue and green lives. This game.