Half-way through Pakistan’s run-chase in the ICC Cricket World Cup match against Sri Lanka on Tuesday, the crowd at Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium roared and chanted a famous Pakistani slogan.
“Jeetay ga bhaee jeetay ga, Pakistan jeetay ga [Pakistan will win],” they shouted in unison after a prompt from the venue’s DJ.
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The near-capacity crowd roared for Pakistan’s captain Babar Azam when he stepped on the field and cheered for Mohammad Rizwan when he guided his team home with a fighting century.
“The way the crowd showered us with love, we felt like we were [playing] at home,” Rizwan cheerfully told reporters after the match on Tuesday.
Pakistan have been based in south India since their arrival in the country nearly two weeks ago, when large crowds gathered at the airport to welcome the team from across the border.
“The way people welcomed us at the airport and then chanted for us while we were on the ground – it left us speechless,” the Pakistani wicket-keeper batter said when prompted to comment on the reception accorded to his team.
“We have developed a bond of love with the people here.”
Videos posted on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, showed the crowd go up in rapturous applause when Pakistan completed their win.
“With the crowd so close to the pitch and cheering so loudly, I felt like I was playing in Pindi,” Rizwan chuckled, referring to the compact cricket stadium in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.
Rizwan came on to bat when his team lost their captain and star batter in the eighth over in pursuit of a target of 345 runs.
He built a 176-run partnership with opening batter Abdullah Shafique and hit the winning runs for his team with 10 balls to spare.
The 31-year-old scored 131 runs on 121 balls in an innings that was hampered by cramps.
However, despite posting his highest score in a one-day international (ODI) match, Rizwan fell short of the target set to him by local ground staff.
“When I entered the ground, the pitch curator told me I have to score 200 runs here,” he revealed after the match.
In a post on X on Wednesday, Rizwan dedicated the win to the people of Gaza, who are facing a fifth day of bombardment and intensified siege from Israel.
“This is for our brothers and sisters in Gaza,” Rizwan wrote as he also thanked the people of Hyderabad for their “amazing hospitality and support”.
Source: Al Jazeera