When cricket inspired freedom

But for the goodwill that cricket has generated between the two otherwise hostile neighbors, Anand Veer, a resident of Panchkula, could not have dreamt of meeting his younger brother Gopal Dass, who has been languishing in a Pakistani jail for nearly 28 years.

After Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s invitation to his counterpart in Pakistan Yousuf Raza Gilani, President Asif Ali Zardari remitted on Sunday, the remaining jail term of Gopal Dass, an Indian convicted of spying. Gopal Dass' family members said he had been arrested after he mistakenly crossed the Indo-Pak border.

Veer told Deccan Herald “this match will always be special for us, irrespective of who wins. We couldn’t have asked for more. It has come as a rebirth for my brother.” It was in 1984, that Anand Veer, then in his late twenties, and his family last saw Gopal Dass.

“We have been in touch with him only through letters. I moved the Supreme Court in 2008 in support of my brother’s claim. This month, in a rare gesture the apex court urged Pakistan to free my brother on humanitarian grounds,” an elated Veer said.  

Veer’s daughter Navneet said she would be seeing her uncle for the first time. Veer, an employee in a quasi-government firm in Mohali, said he was not sure when his brother would cross the Attari border. “I have informed my village heads in Gurdaspur. They are preparing to welcome him back,” he said.

Veer still has one regret. “I didn’t buy tickets for the match. Had I known what good fortune was coming my way, I would have made sure I was part of this historic event.” Meanwhile, many fans continued to camp outside the PCA stadium in the hope of obtaining tickets. A Pakistani based in Chicago created an uproar outside the stadium after he failed to get a ticket. He shouted pro-Pakistan slogans, pleading for a ticket.

A hoax bomb call, traced to Chandigarh, created panic with police and other security agencies pressing all expertise into action. The security agencies held a joint meting on Sunday to prepare for any exigency. Cricketers and supporting staff have been advised to inform the police at least four hours in advance in case they plan a trip outside their hotel. Fans started to gather outside the Taj hotel since morning, hoping to get a glimpse of the cricketers on their way to the stadium for practice sessions.

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