In India And Pakistan, Cricket Fans Are Gearing Up For Their Favorite World Cup Match India and Pakistan went to the brink of war in February. But Sunday's match "should create love and affection," says a Pakistani fan. "We should compete, but compete for the betterment of society."
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In India And Pakistan, Cricket Fans Are Gearing Up For Their Favorite World Cup Match

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In India And Pakistan, Cricket Fans Are Gearing Up For Their Favorite World Cup Match

In India And Pakistan, Cricket Fans Are Gearing Up For Their Favorite World Cup Match

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/732470412/732992696" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

India and Pakistan are neighbors who have fought four wars. They meet again Sunday in what might be the most-watched game of the Cricket World Cup. Maybe they'll ask B.J. Lederman, who does our theme music, to play the opening anthem. NPR's Lauren Frayer in Mumbai.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Pakistani TV shows an Indian fighter pilot in captivity, sipping tea while being interrogated. He refuses to divulge anything.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: And what was your mission?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: I'm sorry; I'm not supposed to tell you this.

FRAYER: This actually happened back in February, when Pakistan shot down an Indian fighter jet, interrogated the pilot and aired footage, amid airstrikes that brought these nuclear-armed neighbors very close to all-out war. The pilot was released home to India, and now a spoof of his interrogation is airing in Pakistan. This time it's not India's military secrets the Pakistanis are after; it's India's game plan for the Cricket World Cup.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) I'm sorry; I'm not supposed to tell you this.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) OK. How's the tea?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Tea is fantastic.

FRAYER: Actors then tussle over the teacup, as if it symbolizes the Cricket World Cup. This ad has sent Twitter into a tizzy with memes of teacups and trophies ahead of Sunday's cricket match.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Pakistan versus Indian, 16 June - live on Jazz TV.

FRAYER: This is one of the world's biggest sports rivalries - archenemies India and Pakistan on the cricket field. Sunday's match is in Manchester, England, and up to a billion people are expected to watch on TV. There are cricket watching parties across South Asia.

MRINALINI DEV: So we all friends just want to get together and scream and shout and cheer for India.

FRAYER: Mrinalini Dev plans to be at this Mumbai sports bar with a big bucket of beers. She's got to pace herself, though; these matches last eight to 10 hours. One table over is Parag Grewal, a ship's captain in port for the weekend. He says he hopes cricket can boost diplomacy. After all, the Pakistani prime minister is a former captain of his country's cricket team. Imran Khan led Pakistan to its only World Cup victory in 1992. He was a star even in India.

PARAG GREWAL: As a sportsman, he used to be very nice and pally with all the Indian players. Now, also, he can be that arbitrator who can diffuse a situation and get a little more brotherly love.

FRAYER: That's a sentiment expressed by fans on both sides of the border. Indians and Pakistanis are watching this match not only for the sport of it, but also for a glimpse at rivals who used to be their own countrymen, before colonial India was split up a lifetime ago. Ayub Malik is a cricket fan in Pakistan's capital Islamabad. This match, he says...

AYUB MALIK: It should create love, affection. We are the same people. We should compete but compete for the betterment of the society, and cricket is the one instrument of that.

FRAYER: It's a nice thought, but India-Pakistan relations are at a low point. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was just reelected, in part by talking tough on Pakistan. He's refused peace talks with Prime Minister Khan. Neither leader has plans to attend Sunday's match. They'll probably tune in, though, along with hundreds of millions of their citizens. Lauren Frayer, NPR News, Mumbai.

(SOUNDBITE OF CORNERSHOP & BUBBLEY KAUR'S "UNITED PROVINCES OF INDIA")

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