By Muhammad Atif Noor
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan team may yet face the wrath of crowd in the cauldron of Eden Gardens, Kolkata, should they win or get close to a fancied win over India in Saturday’s high-voltage clash of the World Twenty20.
A complete security blanket would indeed be provided to the Pakistan squad but the heavily pro-Indian fans in the stands of the 65,000-capacity stadium can still take to creating disturbances.
Two instances from the 1990s instantly come to mind in this behalf—the ODI World Cup 1996 semi-final between India and Sri Lanka and the Test match between Pakistan and the home side in 1999 when the spectators were banished from the stadium and the visitors completed the winning rites on the last day in an empty stadium.
Match referee, former West Indies captain Clive Lloyd, awarded the semi final of 1996 World Cup to Sri Lanka when crowd set bonfires at the stadium with India on the verge of defeat. The match was halted and then awarded to Sri Lanka.
The match will be the focus of almost 1.5 billion pairs of eyes–nearly 1.2 billion in India and the rest in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal etc. and even outside the sub-continent. “Yes, it is true that Indian crowd, particularly at Eden Gardens, do create disturbance when their team is losing,” said former fast bowler Sarfraz Nawaz.
The Pakistan-India match in the ongoing T20 World Cup was shifted from Dharamsala ,Himanchal Pradesh, to Eden Gardens, Kolkata, after some Indian extremist elements threatened to spoil the match. An Anti-Pakistan group of India (ATFI) has even threatened to dig up the Eden Gardens ground. “We will not allow Pakistan to play anywhere in India at any cost,” said President ATFI Viresh Shandilya as reported by DNA India.
“We threatened to dig up the pitch in HPCA stadium at Dharamsala, we will do the same at Kolkata,” he added. All of such threats and statements can be a part of pressure building tactics against the green-shirts, and the players would be well-advised to stay away from watching and reading such news.
“Pakistani players will have to get all the things out of their minds and play normal cricket by holding their nerves,” Sarfraz advised. India and Pakistan matches are never short of drama but things went a bit too far during an ill-tempered Test match at Kolkata in 1999. After Sachin Tendulkar was run-out at a critical stage of the match, the Pakistanis were pelted by bottles and other objects by the furious Indian crowd.
A three-hour hold-up in play ensued as police and security officials evicted more than 65,000 spectators from the ground. Indian daily `The Statesman’ after the match published an editorial on the subject which declared “Save cricket, ban Calcutta.
The city is unfit for the game.” “Afridi’s recent statement that sparked controversy was also in the context of pacifying the hyped emotions created by extremist hindus and to get Indian support,” former legendary leg-spinner Abdul Qadir said.
“I was disappointed by the crowd’s behavior. I know they were down, but that’s the way the game goes,” said Lloyd as quoted by Independent newspaper.
The Zimbabwean umpire Ian Robinson said it had been a scary experience for those on the field. “One glass bottle came out of the members’ area and over the sight screen.” he said. Lloyd also stated he was disappointed with the standard of security. “I’d asked for police to mingle with the crowd,” he said.
“It wasn’t adequately policed.” The then officials of the Cricket Association of Bengal said they were disappointed by the crowd’s behavior. “We are very shocked. Before holding any match, we should think carefully now,” said Debdas Banerjee, the then Joint secretary of the Cricket Association of Bengal.
Pakistan has never beaten India in a World Cup match but at the same time has never lost a limited-overs match against the arch-rivals on this very venue. Now Old Father Time will decide which of the trend is repeated.