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Gaddafi erupts in show of goodwill

Lahore, March 24: Fireworks speckled the night sky with red and silvery dots of light.

Crackers burst through stray sounds of jubilation nestling in the soft cushion of silence covering the stadium at the end of a festival.

This is not Eden Gardens, Calcutta. But Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore.

“I’d never imagined people of both countries could sit side by side and behave in such a civilised manner,” said Imran Khan, the former Pakistan captain.

In the stands flags were waving, the tricolour and the green with the crescent.

As Moin Khan was bowled by Lakshmipathy Balaji and the Indians scurried to grab the stumps as mementoes, the storyline could not have unfolded any better for India and Pakistan.

The Indian team quickly came together in its trademark huddle and did a little dance number. If there was anger at Inzamam-ul Haq’s team’s loss, it was not evident in the stadium.

At the presentation ceremony, Rameez Raza, former Pakistan captain, acknowledged Lahore’s exemplary behaviour to loud cheers from the stands.

A group of Indian visitors held up a festoon that said: “Thank you, Lahore.”

The celebrities who came over were treated to presidential courtesy. Pervez Musharraf spent time chatting to Jinnah’s grandson Nusli Wadia, with mother Dina and Rajmata Gayatri Devi sitting next to them.

Reliance boss Mukesh Ambani was there with family, as was the flamboyant businessman-MP Vijay Mallya.

And, if Hariharan was much in evidence, so too was Junoon’s Salman Ahmad. It’s a pity they couldn’t break into an impromptu performance or, else, that collaboration would have reflected the bonhomie on the terraces.

In the background, the shrieks of delight from Sourav’s boys continued to the accompaniment of dancing — more hopping on two feet, really. Such was the noise they made Sachin Tendulkar couldn’t hear what the television commentator in the presentation area, Dean Jones, was asking him.

Irfan Pathan, much the hero of the day, had no trouble hearing, but speaking. “It is a great win for us. I don’t know what to say, I don’t have words to describe it,” he said.

Pakistani girls came to the match wearing hats that said “Jeet lo dil”, picking up the slogan from Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who said “win matches, but win hearts, too”.

“I’ve been amazed and this series has sent out such a strong message. In my time, no Pakistani clapped if an Indian got a fifty or a hundred. Over the past fortnight, well, it’s been incredible,” Imran said.

Back in Delhi, the Prime Minister said after the victory: “Our 11 players won the match and hearts. If 11 players can do this, there is no reason that success will elude 100 crore Indians if they desire of something.”

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