Prepare for the real battle in the Oval today.
Make no mistake — the result of this Champion’s Trophy final between Pakistan and India is not the answer in question, it is what will happen after the result that will confirm what we are looking for. There is clearly more at stake here than just high-octane cricket.
In Modi’s India, the rupturing of the national soul is happening in slow motion. A nation of a billion people with a history reaching back thousands of years is lacerating itself to a bloody pulp in a bid to ‘cleanse itself’ or perceived ‘otherness’. Like a hulking monster blinded by uncontrollable rage, Modi’s India is cannibalising itself chunk by chunk all the while pretending it is feasting on its demons. Lengthening shadows over this land grow darker by the day, foreshadowing ominous times for those trapped inside the crushing embrace of Modi’s India.
Kohli’s India may be different. The arrogance of its players is often matched by the strength of their skills. The team in blue is a class act and reflects the best that India has to offer in terms of excellence, professionalism and merit. Their batting lineup is as deep as the reservoir of their talent pool; their bowling is as disciplined as a military battalion and their captain’s leadership is fuelled by his consistent superior performance with the bat. Kohli’s India, represented by his boys in blue, demands admiration.
Not so Modi’s India. This is a land that has become thirsty for the blood of people lynched, hacked, stabbed, shot, and torn to bits by the adherents of Modi and his men. It is a land that has become deaf to the agonising screams of its minorities savaged again and again by its marauding majority. It is a majority so inebriated by its own-some that it is oblivious to the pain of hacking its own limbs blow by bloody blow.
In Modi’s India unspeakable horrors are losing their horror-inducing shock value because these shocks are being cushioned by justifications from elevated platforms. When a Muslim is lynched by a mob and literally torn apart because the mob suspected he ate beef, does Modi’s India recoil in utter horror and revulsion? Does it look in the mirror and see a grotesque image staring back? Does it bear down on the murderers and crush them under the weight of law? Or does it mutter some inaudible regret, shrug its shoulders and walk away?
And then Modi’s India reaches out to Kohli’s India in the shape of men like Rishi Kapoor. Such men tweet Modi’s hate in Kohli’s name; they vomit Modi’s prejudice on Kohli’s pitch and dredge up Modi’s visceral hatred of Pakistanis with Kohli’s bat. Kapoor appears to be a card-carrying, chest thumping member of Modi’s marauding majority that is defining India in crimson colours. He represents millions of those who have been liberated by Modi to express and act on their hitherto suppressed prejudices and do so in full glare of the law.
And in full glare of the cameras and a global audience, Kohli’s India will battle not just a resurgent Pakistan but the demons of Modi’s India. These demons now infest television studios in New Delhi and Mumbai and crawl across the social media landscape hissing and snarling at all and sundry. For them Kohli’s India is a mere extension of the saffron brigade and therefore duty bound to play against Pakistan not with a cricketing spirit but with vileness so alien to this gentleman’s sport. They want Kohli’s India not to win against Sarfraz’s eleven, they want Kohli’s India to lynch our team like they lynch Muslims in Modi’s India; like they shoot and kill and blind school boys and girls in Occupied Kashmir.
Can Kohli’s India save Indians from being terminally infected by Modi’s India? Can the professionalism, skill, ability and an unadulterated cricketing spirit displayed so admirably by Kohli’s India vanquish the poison, hate, bigotry and venomous anti-Muslim, anti-minority, anti-Pakistan hysteria of Modi’s India? Let there be no doubt, the eleven men in blue in the Oval today represent millions of Indians who belong not to Modi’s India but to Kohli’s India and these men and women guard the wall against the Whitewalkers — the saffron hordes sweeping across this vast land. But the wall has been breached — blood and butchery everywhere in Occupied Kashmir and across the four corners of the country where ‘Gow Rakshaks’ and their ilk are savaging Muslims without fear of the law.
In victory and in defeat what matters much more than the result is how we react to the outcome. Today as twenty-two men fight a pitched battle with willow and leather on the twenty-two yard battlefield, at stake will be much more than a championship. For Team Green this is an opportunity to prove to the world that it may take international cricket away from our home grounds and it may refuse to play with us out of spite, and it may even browbeat us at platforms like the ICC, but the indomitable Pakistani spirit turbo-charged with passion and talent will smash all the obstacles and prevail against near-impossible odds.
Team Blue, however, will be fighting a two-front war: one against us and the other against Modi’s India. In victory or in defeat how Kohli’s India reacts will prove to the world whether it has won the real battle against Modi’s India or whether it has been slain by the very nation it represents on the Oval ground today.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 18th, 2017.