One half of the ‘Indo-Pak Express’ that has touched hearts with its message of peace, Pakistan tennis player Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi hoped that his partnership with Rohan Bopanna would inspire a resumption of cricketing ties between the two countries.
Qureshi and Bopanna finished runners-up in the US Open finals yesterday after going down to top-seeded American brothers Mike and Bob Bryan 6-7 (5) 6-7 (4).
The pair, which has been playing with the message of ‘Stop War and Start Tennis’, has become a symbol of peace in both India and Pakistan -- the two neighbours whose already strained ties deteriorated further after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
Since the attack, the cricket ties between the two countries have all but snapped and Qureshi hoped that there is a resumption soon.
“I hope people take it in a positive way; no politics or religion should ever come in sports. I feel cricket is affected because of the strong political aspect to it,” Qureshi said.
“Both countries have cricket loving people and only political reasons are stopping the teams from not playing each other. I remember when India toured Pakistan, they had great support, the atmosphere was unbelievable. I really hope the governments keep political aspects out of the games,” he added.
Qureshi said his flood-ravaged country, which has also been shamed by a betting scam involving some of its top cricketers, has had little to cheer about.
“Pakistan is going through a very dark time right now, with the terrorist attacks, floods, cricket controversies, I really hope that my performance here bring some good news back home,” he said.
“I really don’t know how people are reacting back home, I guess when I go back I will know. But I must really thank Rohan for being with me throughout these two weeks, and helping me in my cause. I hope Inshaallah when I go back home the receptions is good,” an emotional Qureshi added.
Bopanna said despite finishing on the losing side in the finals, he considers the US Open runners-up trophy one of the biggest of his career.
“I mean this is obviously right up there, has to be one of our best moments ever,” he said.
On the message of peace that the duo has been spreading, Bopanna said neither he nor Qureshi intend to make a political statement with it.
“We are not here to make any statement, we just love to play tennis and we are pursuing our careers, obviously it’s wonderful being ambassadors of Peace and Sport and spreading that message through our Tennis is great. There is nothing else though; we are not here to make political statements,” he said.