In Gurgaon, Indo-Pak cricket clash marks a special day

The Tau Devi Lal stadium in Gurgaon wore a deserted look on Tuesday. It was host to an international T20 cricket match between the differently abled teams from India and Pakistan. There was no star-studded guest-list, no beeline of ministers, socialites, cricketers or donor organisations or officials from the local administration. Just a few curious onlookers standing atop the stadium wall, trying to ascertain what was going on. A strange spectacle for a cricket-crazy nation.

But the gloom of the empty stands did not dampen players' spirits. The match they had conceived over three years took shape on World Disability Day.

On display was also an unwavering friendship — the Pakistani physio taking care of an injured Indian player and Indians implementing the age old adage: "Atithi devo bhavah (guests are gods)" by ensuring good food and accommodation for their counterparts from across the border.

And all this, without the support of their respective governments.

"The only support came in the form of granting a visa for two days to our counterparts and that too came with a lot of hassle such as getting permissions from the Sports Ministry, Ministry of Home Affairs and other security related issues. The permission letter was sent directly to the Indian Embassy in Pakistan and I, being the organiser, still haven't received a copy even after making considerable amounts of visits to government offices," Praveen Bahl, President, PCCAI (Physically Challenged Cricket Association of India, said.

The visible dissent faded away as the match commenced. Bahl recalled how the correspondence with the Pakistani counterpart began. "Abbasji and I connected through the internet two years ago. The idea was to give the physically handicapped and disabled persons an outlet, an opportunity to nurture and showcase their talent. Cricket happened to be that vehicle of change," Bahl said.

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