The most awaited encounter of the 2019 Cricket World Cup is over. At Old Trafford in Manchester, the Indian team led by Virat Kohli meted out a resounding defeat to Sarfaraz Ahmed and his men, keeping intact the Indian record of winning World Cup matches against Pakistan. The game, watched by over 1.5 billion persons in both countries, went beyond cricket given the recent tensions between the two countries and the warlike situation this led to early this year. The use of certain insignia on equipment by members of the Indian team did not help the situation. Fortunately, despite all this, the game was largely played in an amicable spirit, with Kohli stressing that professionalism and focus on the game lay beyond all else. Not unexpectedly, exchanges on social media were ferocious and sometimes bitter. Equally offensive was the language used against Pakistani players by their own fans. Although cricket represents a great deal, especially in the Subcontinent, in the final analysis, it is just a game.
The Indian team demonstrated why it is being rated as a team among the favourites to go on to its third World Cup victory. The 336 runs notched up by its batsmen in a slightly abbreviated contest proved well beyond Pakistan’s capacities in the end. In the end, despite a valiant fightback, notably from Fakhar Zaman with 62 runs and Babar Azam with 48 runs, the contest ended in a whimper. There was to be no fight to the end, no nail-biting finish. Pakistan lost by 89 runs and with this loss essentially showed why the team has faced consistent criticism at home since the start of this world cup. The criticisms have revolved around strategy, leadership and commitment. Accounts of a rift within the team hardly help matters. But in the end, there can be no excuses. While there were demonstrations of jingoism and surly behaviour on both sides, there were also demonstrations of goodwill and a desire for peace both on the cricket field and beyond it. We can only hope that for the future, this goodwill continues to grow and the fierce rivalry between the two teams plays out on the cricketing fields of the world but does not spill over beyond the white line which marks their boundaries.