The rivalry between Pakistan and India is one of the most intense cricket rivalries in the past 70 years. Any game between the two neighbours creates immense pressure on the players of both sides. It’s more than a game as no side can afford to lose there is extreme reaction from the fans and media. Loss sometimes even leads to violence.
Strong sentiments are showed by people of both countries, but the reaction from India is very harsh. The most recent example was the final of Champions Trophy in England last year.
Public in India burnt posters of their star players, chanting slogans against those players who had been the heroes before the final.
Former skipper MS Dhoni, who won a World Cup, a World T20 and Champions Trophy for India, received threats from hardliners due to which strict security was placed at his residence.
People broke their TV sets on road, burnt posters and chanted slogans against captain Virat Kohli.
It is very hard for Indian media to accept anything that goes in favour of Pakistan. Former Indian cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu’s case is an example. The newly-elected Prime Minister Imran Khan invited former cricketers Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Navjot Singh Sidhu to his oath-taking ceremony. But only Sidhu showed courage to travel to Pakistan with permission from India’s Foreign Office. Imran thanked Sidhu for being part of his oath-taking ceremony.
Sharing a message on Twitter, Imran said, “I want to thank Sidhu for coming to Pakistan for my oath taking. He was an ambassador of peace and was given amazing love & affection by people of Pakistan.”
Pakistanis everywhere warmly welcomed Sidhu. He also hugged Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa during the oath-taking ceremony.
But this gestures were widely criticised in India. Instead of appreciating the warm welcome of an Indian in Pakistan, the Indian politicians, media and some hardliners started criticising Sidhu. The severe reaction from Indian media and public shocked not only Pakistanis but also Sidhu.
It was not a political visit. Imran invited him as a friend. Kapil Dev also welcomed Imran’s invitation and showed his will to attend the oath-taking ceremony, but after that due to some
“personal reasons”, he chose not to visit Pakistan.
Gavaskar also excused himself due to his commentary commitments during England-India Test series.
Sidhu upon his arrival said that three Indian cricketers were invited and if none had come it would have left a bad impression.
He was happy at being received warmly in Pakistan. During his press conference in Islamabad, he said Imran Khan has power to change the image of Pakistan. “Imran has said if India comes one step closer, Pakistan will come two steps. This is quite a good message and I will convey the feelings here in India,” he said.
He said the invitation extended to him to attend Imran Khan’s oath-taking ceremony was a “message of love, friendship and peace for his countrymen”.
The former Indian cricketer said he received lots of love and respect in Pakistan. He said he had also brought a message of love and friendship from India.
He further said that the love that he received from Pakistan was something “I cannot explain. I would never forget the love that I gained from Pakistan.”
However, this gesture by Sidhu didn’t go well with the nationalist parties in India. They targeted him. some of the protesters even burnt an effigy of the cricketer and chanted slogans against him. Bhartia Janta Party (BJP) described Sidhu’s visit to Islamabad as “shameful”.
Sidhu clarified his position by saying: “If you are invited as a guest of honour somewhere, you sit wherever you are asked to. I was sitting somewhere else but they asked me to sit there,” he added.
But the hardliners did not accept the clarification. A sedition case was filed against him in Muzaffarpur for hugging Pakistan’s army chief.
Seeing all this, a former cricketer in a video message offered Sidhu that if he was facing problems from hardliners in India he can come to Pakistan and live at his home. It’s a good gesture from a Pakistani but in my opinion such messages can create more problems for Sidhu in his country as obviously it’s not possible for Sidhu to leave India just because of an incident.