MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Funny thing – Father’s Day today coincides with some big sporting events. It’s the fourth round of the U.S. Open in golf. There’s plenty of baseball being played around the country. Lots of people will be watching and cheering. But for sheer numbers, not to mention drama, none of this compares to this morning’s cricket match between arch rivals India and Pakistan in the finals of the ICC Champions Trophy. Just ask Osman Samiuddin, senior editor of ESPNCricinfo.
OSMAN SAMIUDDIN: It’s difficult to describe the kind of emotions.
MARTIN: The countries hardly ever play against each other because of political tensions, and when they do, emotions run high. And the numbers are mind boggling. For instance, about 110 million people watched the Super Bowl this year. This morning’s match played in London?
SAMIUDDIN: Four-hundred-and-fifty to 500 million people watching it around the world on TV – that is kind of legally watching it. It’s not just a sport. It’s not just a religion. I think it’s become a compulsion. In Urdu, we say, you know, it’s a majboori, something that you can’t avoid. You have to cricket.
MARTIN: Indian cricket players are the superstars of the game, as famous as Bollywood stars back home, commercial mainstays around the world and, oh, yeah, they win – a lot. Pakistani fans are used to watching their team on TV but for different reasons.
SAMIUDDIN: They haven’t played any cricket at home in Pakistan since 2009. It’s been over eight years now. And that was when a terrorist attack on a visiting team from Sri Lanka, they hurt some players there. And that kind of ended international cricket being played in Pakistan.
MARTIN: Coming into the tournament, Pakistan was the lowest-ranked team in the field. To make things worse, they got hammered by their old rivals, India, in the first game of the event. But then Pakistan started winning and winning and winning. They beat world number one South Africa to stay alive and England, the hosts and tournament favorite, in the semifinals. And then, this morning, Pakistan finished the Cinderella story with a blowout victory against, yes, India.
SAMIUDDIN: For it to happen in the way that it did in this tournament, it is one of the most important achievements in all of cricket.
MARTIN: And now they party.
SAMIUDDIN: Been watching reports from Pakistan about people celebrating on the streets. There will be celebrations that will go on for a fair few days yet. There’s Eid, which is the end of Ramadan this week. And I think people will just celebrate all the way through now.
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