Like everything in Kashmir, cricket is more than just a game: itâ€™s politics. And while cricket lovers in the Himalayan region are whetting their lips over Sundayâ€™s World Cup fixture between South Africa and India, most are simply hoping South Africa will emerge triumphant. You see, in this part of the world, there is little love for Indiaâ€™s cricketers, and Virat Kohli or MS Dhoni have nothing on Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers. Make no mistake, many Kashmiris will be supporting South Africa on Sunday. RIFAT MOHIDIN found out why.
Sajid Rasool Malla, 24, Sumbal Sonawari
I always love to support the team that plays against India whoever it is, because we donâ€™t consider the Indian cricket team as our own team. This support for teams playing against India will always remain alive in Kashmir. My conscience will never allow me to favour India although cricket is a just game. I am ready to support South Africa in next game. I have even heard from my elders in family that when there was a match played between the West Indies and India in a stadium in Srinagar, people supported the West Indies. So the support becomes obvious.
Arifa Ashraf Hamdani, 22, Srinagar
Hashim Amla is a fantastic player and he has proved it by beating Sachin Tendulkarâ€™s record of being the fastest to achieve 5,000 ODI runs. He is such a humble person too. He is an amazing cricketer. I love the South African team because of him and this time the support for them is also because they are playing against India. Even if India plays against Kenya, we want Kenya to win. South Africa should win so that India loses points and gets down in the group.
Usman Khursheed, 20, law student
David Miller from South Africa is my favourite cricketer. I will support South Africa in the next match. The reason is attached to emotions and sentiment. It is general narrative of Kashmir to support a team, irrespective of nation or the quality, just to practice their anti-Indian sentiment. Technical considerations apart, it is a matter of emotions inclined towards any team playing against India. South Africa has a strong team â€“ they have more chances to win the game. Letâ€™s hope for the best. Last time we were disappointed because Pakistan lost the match but this time, if South Africa wins, we will definitely celebrate.
Aqib Farooq, 19, Srinagar
For me supporting South Africa against India stems from the deep resentment and ruthlessness of Indian state in Kashmir. Kashmiris feel relieved, however little, when they watch the Indian team loosing. Itâ€™s a form of resistance where Kashmiris reassert that they are not Indians. Cricket is like opium for Kashmiris and whenever India plays a match, Kashmiris overwhelmingly support the opposite team. It is a political statement about being subjugated under Indian rule.
– Voxes have been edited for brevity and clarity.
– Featured image: By the Nelson Mandela Foundation via YouTube. All other images: By Rifat Mohidin.