If paanwallahs in north India are a signpost for the election breeze, then taxi-drivers in London are often astute sports forecasters. When my London cabbie turns out to be a Pakistani who predicts that his team is heading for a heavy defeat against India in the Champions Trophy, you know the men in green are in big trouble. After all, the one thing that Pakistanis pride themselves on is the notion of ‘junoon’ (obsession) with beating the ‘Big Brother’. All that has changed now which is why the whopping 124 run loss to India in Birmingham should not come as any surprise.
Indo-Pak cricket, like diplomatic relations between the two countries, suffers from schizophrenia. Rewind to January 1999 when a Chennai crowd gave a standing ovation to Wasim Akram’s men after they had just beaten India. Six months later, the two countries met again in a world cup match against the backdrop of the Kargil war and fans of both sides abused each other. In 2004, we were treated to a Pakistani crowd singing, “Balaji, zara dheere chalo” every time he ran in to bowl.