Virat Kohli craned out skywards from the dressing room. Dark clouds threw some water at him. He would later say it was “disappointing” not to get a game but the Indian fans weren’t in dark mood at the stadium. The chatter was about Pakistan. It’s as if New Zealand game was an unnecessary stop. Just imagine what would happen if the rain had washed out the Pakistan game? Calm down, now.
It’s been like that for a while. Hours after India had beaten Australia, a few Indian fans were waiting for the tube to emerge from a tunnel around 10 pm at the Oval station. A swing from brown—papered beer bottles was followed with Punjabi songs, punctuated with “jeetega bhai …” shouts that ended with “Pakistan hareyga”. A couple of bewildered Polish stood at the other end of the platform.
The Pakistani cabbie at Southampton showed a screenshot from his phone. Mahendra Singh, the text read. In the evening before the game against South Africa, he claimed Dhoni had booked his Uber. He is positive it was that gloved wonder. But the ride was cancelled. And the disappointed driver, who wasn’t far from the team hotel, rushed ahead to see Dhoni get into another Uber. He shows another video; all one can see are shaky images of his own dashboard.
“In the tension, I couldn’t focus.” He followed Dhoni’s Uber to see him and a couple of other players get off at the restaurant. He once again showed that Mahendra Singh screenshot – a unique souvenir that only an Uber driver can possess.
And so it goes. India versus Pakistan. From Doordarshan to Prime Sports to Star Sports to Hotstar apps on phones. The devices have changed, the anticipation remains the same.
The customary question to Kohli about the washout done, and commentator Simon Doull swiftly moved to Pakistan. “All the excitement and frenzy around the game could intimidate guys who are playing for the first time. As soon as you enter the field, it’s all calm. For us, it’s about executing our skills and we’re all professionals. It’s been competitive for a while now; it’s been a marquee event and it’s an honour to be a part of such an event.”
Pakistan have shown enough glimpses to make their fans hope about beating India. The latter has shown enough for their fans to strut around. Kohli wasn’t fussed about not getting some match time ahead of Pakistan encounter. “From the players’ point of view and where the teams are placed, it was better suited not to take the field when it is not safe to play. Don’t want an injury at this stage. We’ve been playing some good cricket, we’re not too worried about where we stand. Having two wins does give you confidence. A couple of practice sessions and we should be fine. It’s only about getting game time and that should happen on Sunday.”
As for that Southampton cabbie, he was lucky to have Chris Gayle in his car. Apparently, Mr Universe Boss was cursing in jest that West Indies were put up at a not-so-fancy hotel while Australians were at the Hilton. No souvenir screenshots taken from that trip, though.