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A game of cricket took me behind ‘enemy’ lines

I used to play cricket back home, in Pakistan.

When I was assigned to do a story about the college’s new cricket intramural on a Monday in late November, I wondered: maybe I could also get to play?

I did – and I ended up having an unexpected experience. While some people back home in Pakistan express hatred towards our eastern neighbours in India, I found that on the cricket pitch it did not matter.

.“Are you here to play?” asked Anuj Chopra, a project management student, asked me when I walked on into Algonquin’s gym with no gym bag.

I did have a few years of experience from playing in Karachi.

Chopra went back to the group administrating the event. I shouted back in Urdu along the lines of “Brother, let me play.” Luckily Hindi and Urdu are incredibly similar.

Luckily, the team needed a player and I was now that player.

Chopra left his home from Delhi, India to make one here and study. “It’s’ important to acknowledge where you come from, and to not hide that pride,” Chopra said.

I was asked to throw a few test deliveries to measure my abilities.

I took a few steps back for my run-up knowing that I’m not the best at the sport and haven’t played in a while.

The ball went wide. Incredibly wide.

The keeper ran to the back right corner of the gym, under the bleachers to throw it back.

“Its’ okay, you can bat,” said Annan Joyia with a laugh at my less-than-excellent throw.

Joyia, another international student from Lahore, Pakistan has been in Canada for a little over a year. “Apart from missing my family and the cold, there’s not that much getting used to,” he said. “There are friends there, there are friends here.”

We played two games of seven over innings.

Towards the last ball, I did the unthinkable: I caught a ball and got a player out. Catching that ball made me feel like I was back home for a second. No matter if it’s a street game or t20 tournament, when someone gets a batsman out, the players and those watching are alive and participate for the excitement. But it wasn’t entirely like home. I was playing cricket with Indians in this gym. The border we share back home is always on the brink of Quasi war.

In a BBC World Service poll from July 2017, 18,000 people in 19 countries were asked to rate 16 countries on their influence in the world.

Eighty-five per cent of the vote from India was against Pakistan. When viewed from Pakistan in a similar survey conducted in 2014, 58 per cent of Pakistanis viewed Indian influence as “mostly negative.”

Disregarding political differences, some people back home express different kinds of hatred towards their neighbours when cricket is involved. And here I am, on the same pitch.

This is not the first time I have made friends from a country many people in my home country may dislike.

I decided to ‘write home’ about it.

I sent an email to my overly nationalistic uncle who is also a cricket nut.

I titled it, Making friends with the enemy over cricket.

I still graciously await his response.


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