Fans come from far off places to cheer for India, Pakistan teams

NEW YORK: Ayush, the trucker from Toronto, was a saviour. When the request on the app for a 20-minute cab ride on a Sunday morning in Long Island tells you the waiting time is one hour, you know there’s something really big happening in the vicinity. The Pakistan fans were thoroughly outnumbered on Sunday, but that hardly mattered.


It’s just that you happen to meet the boy from Bhatinda, who has driven for eight hours from across the border, and is ready to help the Indian journos in distress. “Come along, India ko jitana hain,” he says, and we all feel obliged.

Ayush wasn’t the only one who had come from far for this historic occasion -India vs Pakistan in cricket‘s ‘new found land’ – the United States of America.

Rizwan and Zeeshan, two businessmen from London, are in New York just to watch Pakistan play. Pakistan had a bad start to the World Cup, but that didn’t matter. “It’s the passion, how can we stay away from this…We have spent $3000 dollars on this, hope the rain goes away,” Rizwan told TOI.

Indian fans cheering for team India during India vs Pakistan T20 WC match.

Pakistani fans supporting Pakistan cricket team.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO and co-owner of Major League Cricket team Seattle Orcas, flanked by Satyan Gajwani (right), chairman of Willow TV, Cricbuzz and MLC co-founder, and Palo Alto Networks CEO Nikesh Arora, who clicked the selfie during the India-Pakistan match in New York on Sunday

Cricket fans had a gala time witnessing the match against the arch-rivals.

Satyan with Sachin Tendulkar.

Satyan with US cricketer Saurabh Netravalkar.

Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in New York saw fans turning up in large numbers for the weekend thriller.

The Sunday morning rain looked like a real threat for quite a while. While we were apprehending the worst -a wash-out on ‘debut’ – the locals gave us hope: “Look at the app, it’s a passing shower and it will clear by 11 am.”

“Rang me bhang nahin hona chahiye yaar,” Navjot Singh Sindhu said in his characteristic style, walking towards the makeshift elevator, where he was greeted by an old ‘frenemy’ Rameez Raja. The two openers of the 80s and 90s from two sides of the border embraced, and there was immediate banter in chaste Punjabi, as if they were back to the playing days. And when somebody asked Rameez if Nassau County Ground reminded him of any off-shore venue, the former captain said: “Has to be Toronto”.

It was in Toronto from 1996-98 that India and Pakistan played three back-to-back Sahara Cups – a bilateral ODI series – which saw

Sourav Ganguly

shaping up as a top limited-overs player and

Saqlain Mushtaq

weaving his magic.

The two teams have stopped playing bilateral cricket over the years and one could feel the craving for India-Pakistan rivalry to be renewed. While Sidhu had said a couple of days ago that “cricket should be a unifier with India-Pakistan playing more often on off-shore venues if needed,” the fans echoed a similar sentiment.

Haider, an IT professional from Maryland, who tries to watch India-Pakistan matches across the globe, said: “We just love to see the two teams playing. Imagine

Virat Kohli

and Babar Azam retiring without playing against each other in a Test match…It’s just sad.”

Navjot Singh Sidhu and Wasim Akram in the ground ahead of the T20 World Cup match between India and Pakistan. (AP Photo)

The Pakistan fans were thoroughly outnumbered on Sunday, but that hardly mattered. When

Sachin Tendulkar

, one of the guests for the match, took a walk around the Nassau County ground, one could feel how he is loved as much by Pakistan fans, as he is by Indians. “We have grown up watching him… How can he not love him,” Rizwan, wearing the green of Pakistan, said.

The rains kept coming and going, the match became a stop-start affair, but those who are associated with cricket in the United States knew that the aim had been achieved. Sanjay Parthasarathy, the owner of

Seattle Orcas

, a team in

Major League Cricket

, told TOI: “The game has made a mark. If you are following the top news channels in the USA, they are all following it. Add to that the win of the USA team …Cricket is here to stay,” Parthsarathy said.

We’ll know in the next few years, but the signs are truly good.