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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

India v Pakistan: Cricket relegated to a distraction during frenzied build-up to semi-final

The Indian-Pakistan border is 150 miles to the west of Mohali, where the World Cup semi-final between India and Pakistan takes place, but it may as well have been transplanted here for all the nationalistic posturing that has accompanied this match.

The cricket has been consigned to a sideshow as politicians hijack the occasion for the higher purpose of trying to get on with their neighbours.
Manmohan Singh, India’s Prime Minster, and his opposite number from Pakistan Yousuf Raza Gilani, will attend the match along with Sonia Gandhi, the head of Congress party which is part of the ruling coalition.
Relations between the two countries have been frosty following the Mumbai terror attack in 2008 and this is seen as an opprtunity the begin the thaw. Cricket has been used before to quell growing discord between the countries, something Shahid Afridi, Pakistan’s one-day captain cknowledged at Tuesday’s press conference.
“I think it is a great sign for both countries that the politicians are attending together,” said Afridi. “Sport, especially cricket, always rings these two countries together.”
Seen through foreign eyes, the police and army presence, the no-fly zones over this part of the Punjab and the robot bomb disposal units, will make this look like a freak show rather than sporting event, yet India has never been shy of going over the top when given the chance to flex a bit of military muscle.

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