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Asia

Press review: Indian cricketers defeat Pakistan

Newspapers in both countries are full of the 'epic showdown' between the rival neighbors in Mohali. India defeated Pakistan by 29 runs in the World Cup semi-final to set up a final against Sri Lanka.

Papers in India and Pakistan also looked at the politics of cricket

Papers in India and Pakistan also looked at the politics of cricket

Disappointment is running high in Pakistan, as the team had played well in this World Cup, and even halfway through Wednesday's semi-final it looked as though Pakistan might well win. "The dream is over," ran the headline in Pakistan's Express Tribune newspaper. Besides all the other problems the country is facing, Pakistan's cricket has been through difficult times, with players being banned for match fixing. On social networks such as Facebook it became obvious that the successes of the last weeks provided a rare chance for many Pakistanis to be proud of their country once again.

The day after, Pakistani newspapers were busy identifying those responsible for the defeat, and blaming wrong tactics. But the overall assessment of the team's effort was positive, significantly different from the last World Cup, when Pakistan were eliminated during the group stage and the cricketers were "welcomed" home with eggs. The media didn’t miss out on the chance to publish Shahid Afridi’s statement in which he said, "I want to say sorry to my nation."

An opinion piece in The News ("Lost, and won") expressed what many Pakistanis felt:

"Our boys could not make it in the end but they fought like brave men. It must be said that the Pakistani boys did a much better job in the World Cup than was being expected before the matches began. We lost to a better team and there is nothing to be ashamed about. We must welcome back our team with smiles and open hearts. The cricketers have proved that they are the best and now it is time for the politicians and the administrators to get their act together and provide a secure and conducive environment for world cricketers to come and play in Pakistan. This may be more difficult in these trying times than winning a World Cup."

Originally, it had been planned that Pakistan would co-host this World Cup with the other South Asian nations, but the idea was dropped due to security concerns.

Pakistani cricket fans watched the match on TV in Peshawar

Pakistani cricket fans watched the match on TV in Peshawar

The Indians, meanwhile, know that it was a close match, and newspaper commentators refrained from triumphalism. The Hindustan Times wrote:

"On the biggest of nights, Pakistan needed to confront their inner demons and vanquish them. Instead, those demons conquered Pakistan. It was, so to speak, a Pakistan vs Pakistan contest. In that encounter, the frail, fallible, fickle Pakistan beat the Pakistan that is as dangerous as it is full of dazzle."

Commentators agreed that the Indians won because they had stronger nerves. Next week's final in Mumbai against Sri Lanka will be a big challenge, but the fact is that Indians have begun dreaming of winning their first Cricket World Cup since their last win 28 years ago.

Cricket diplomacy

Most newspapers across the subcontinent were positive about the two prime ministers, Yousuf Raza Gilani and Manmohan Singh, watching the match together. Pakistan Today called it "the only positive fallout of the Cricket World Cup semi-final." After home-secretary level talks earlier this week and in the run-up of a foreign ministers' meeting set for July, the mood is upbeat regarding a detente between the nuclear-armed rivals. India's PTI news agency ran a review of the Pakistani media, highlighting the positive response to the prime ministers' meeting from across the border.

But there were also voices wary of "cricket diplomacy," warning sports and politics should not get mixed up. Jawed Naqvi, Delhi correspondent for Pakistan's Dawn newspaper, compared the two prime ministers' behavior to that of adolescent youth, looking for "excuses to meet somewhere, preferably away from the neighborhood, in a way that parents couldn’t find out and neighbors wouldn’t gossip."

Naqvi explained, "Indian and Pakistani leaders would rather have ‘chance’ meetings at international gatherings in, say, Havana or Sharm El Sheikh or even Thimphu than visit bilaterally in each other’s capital. Though they have held important talks in Islamabad and New Delhi the leaders have needed a fig leaf — a cricket match or an international conference — to justify a handshake. The most worrying thing in Dr Singh’s so-called diplomatic initiative in Mohali is that there really would have been no such meeting had the Indian and Pakistani cricketers not made it to the semifinals of the World Cup. The obvious question to ask is: if they had something so serious to discuss — and there never is a dearth of urgent issues to be resolved between the two — why did the Indian prime minister not take a plane to Islamabad or invite his counterpart to New Delhi?"

Compiled by Thomas Bärthlein
Editor: Sarah Berning

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