Byline: DHPL Travels
Cricket has the power to create lasting connections and forge unbreakable bonds. For Sri Lankans like Kalana Weerasinghe, their love affair with the Pakistani cricket team began over two decades ago, during Sri Lanka’s historic victory in the Cricket World Cup. Now, as the Pakistani team plays in Colombo, Weerasinghe proudly dons his green Pakistan replica shirt and heads to the stadium. This enduring support reflects the deep-rooted friendship and solidarity between the two South Asian nations.
Decades of Friendship and Support
The history of collaboration between Sri Lanka and Pakistan dates back to Sri Lanka’s independence in 1948 when Pakistan was one of the first countries to recognize the newly-formed nation. Since then, the two countries have stood by each other through thick and thin. In 1971, during Pakistan’s war with India, Sri Lanka allowed Pakistani jets to use its air bases for refueling. Later, when Sri Lanka faced an armed uprising by the Liberation of Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Pakistan provided military equipment and expertise to help the Sri Lankan army combat the separatist group. Additionally, Sri Lanka offered to train the Pakistani army in counterterrorism operations.
Unwavering Support on the Cricket Field
The bond between Sri Lanka and Pakistan extends to the cricket field as well. Both teams have played numerous bilateral series and supported each other when other nations refused to tour over security concerns. Despite the unfortunate attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2009, Sri Lanka’s government and cricketers chose to stand by Pakistan. The heroic bus driver who ensured the safety of the Sri Lankan team was even invited on a sponsored holiday to Sri Lanka as a gesture of gratitude.
A Special Connection with Pakistani Cricketers
Pakistani cricketers have held a special place in the hearts of Sri Lankans long before their own team rose to prominence. The current team, led by the talented Babar Azam, has become a favorite among Sri Lankan cricket fans, including some Indian supporters. Former cricketers like Shoaib Akhtar, Wasim Akram, and Shaheen Shah Afridi have captivated Sri Lankan fans with their pace and unpredictability.
Religion also plays a part in the strong bond between Sri Lankan Muslims and Pakistan. Despite facing challenges and discrimination, Sri Lankan Muslims find solace in their support for the Pakistani team. The ongoing tournament in Colombo’s R Premadasa Stadium, surrounded by the vibrant Muslim neighborhood of Khettarama, brings the community even closer. Local businesses sell replica Pakistan cricket merchandise, and special prayers are held in the neighborhood’s main mosque for the team’s success.
A Sri Lankan with Pakistani Spirit
Cricket fan Nyla Naveez represents the diverse South Asian heritage that can be found in Sri Lanka. With a Pakistani mother and an Indian father, she proudly describes herself as a Sri Lankan who supports Pakistan. Naveez’s emotional connection to the Pakistani cricket team transcends borders and defines her unyielding loyalty. She attributes this loyalty to the exhilarating style of play, particularly the fast bowlers, who make her a devoted Pakistan fan despite her roots in three countries.
Embracing the Spirit of Cricket
On Thursday, Sri Lanka and Pakistan will meet once again at Colombo’s R Premadasa Stadium, this time in a Super 4 match that will determine who faces India in the Asia Cup final. For fans like Mohammed, the Uber driver, the outcome doesn’t matter as much as the joy of witnessing the game itself. However, Mohammed admits that he would be happier if Pakistan emerges victorious, as he believes they have the necessary talent and divine blessings on their side.
The undying support and camaraderie between Sri Lanka and Pakistan exemplify the true spirit of cricket. It goes beyond borders, religion, and nationalities, uniting people under a shared love for the game. As the two teams clash in the upcoming match, let us celebrate this enduring connection and cheer for a thrilling contest filled with sportsmanship and unforgettable moments.