We don’t come to war, we come to play: Young Pakistani cricketers playing in India speak up

This feature appeared on Firstpost on October 27 and can be seen here.

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Last week saw a rare sporting occurrence. A Pakistani cricket team, taking part in a tournament on Indian soil without any controversies, political problems or scandals.

India was hosting the campus cricket world finals for the first time in Dehradun at the Abhimanyu Cricket Academy. Typically targeted by political parties, which have either prevented them from playing at all or forced them to leave India earlier than planned.

Team Pakistan posing for a portrait at Red Bull Campus Cricket in Dehradun, India on 19 October 2015

Firstpost spoke to three cricketers from the Pakistan team – Qadir Khan, Ghullam Hussain and Saeed Raza – about their experiences in India so far.

Q. Since there has been such a hue and cry over Pakistani cricketers taking part in Indian cricketing competitions how has your treatment here been?

Saeed Raza: It has been a good week – right from the time we landed at the airport to getting to the ground in Dehradun and even the stay… It has been heartwarming. Everyone has been so hospitable and respectful.

Qadir Khan: People are really nice to us here. I hope the same treatment is meted out to the other Pakistan teams in the future.

Q. Do you think sports and politics should be mixed up together? With there being no chance of an India Pakistan series how does it feel to be playing in India?

Saeed Raza: No! Certainly not. Politics and sports are two entirely different things. We are sportsmen, we focus on the game not politics. Even people want to watch the game and not the politics that only makes things ugly. Both countries want this – to see a good game of cricket between the two nations. It does not matter to us if there are issues on the political front. What does, is a good game of cricket!

Ghullam Hussain: The truth is that the political situation does not matter to us. It is our second year of playing Red Bull Campus Cricket in Pakistan. We did not make it last year but when we got through this time, and were told that the world finals will take place in India, it only made us more excited.

Qadir Khan: You know what, I feel proud to be able to do so – to play in India. It feels great. India is known for good cricket. IPLs happen in India! And now that we’ve played here, I can say so even more conclusively.

Q. From Pakistani umpire Aleem Daar to Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar pulling out of the Ind-SA series, The Sena has, in the past, dug up pitches at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground in New Delhi and the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai to prevent matches between India and Pakistan. What is your view?

Qadir Khan: I will only repeat that politics and sports should not mingle.

Saeed Khan: It’s utterly disappointing! We don’t come here to war, we come here to play. Why drag politics into sports and make it ugly.

Q. Who are your favorite players from India?

Saeed Khan: Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid – they are the superstars!

Qadir Khan: Virat Kohli. He might be brash but then he is a hero!

Ghullam Hussain: Virat Kohli. I love his aggression

Q. How do you think cricketing relations between the two countries will improve?

Qadir Khan: Either country should take the initiative and host a India-Pak series. Politics should not be allowed to ruin things like sports. Hopefully, this will end soon.

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