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An unlikely pair of racquet-swinging 30-year-olds tries to bridge the ancient subcontinent divide.
Indo-Pak politics have not cramped the tennis duo's style on the court. “We play tennis, not politics,” said Bopanna, adding that their styles are perfectly complementary. Qureshi is stronger at the net whereas Bopanna plays hard ground strokes from the back of the court.
Millions of Indians and Pakistanis turn hysterical when the two countries play cricket against each other. In India, where some Muslims back the rival cricket team, the game quickly turns divisive.
However, there is also evidence that sports can help transcend the subcontinental divide. Earlier this year, Shoaib Malik, a former captain of the Pakistan cricket team wed India’s top ranking tennis player Sania Mirza in a union hailed as a cross-border love match.
The Bopanna-Qureshi pairing is spontaneous, sincere and worth applauding, says Indian historian and social commentator Ramachandra Guha. “It is an endearing, large-hearted partnership,” he said.
But, he said, the two may not have the large impact on the Indo-Pak relationship that some are hoping for. The politics of India and Pakistan are complicated by issues like terrorism and the dispute over the state of Kashmir that both claim as their own.
That hasn't kept fans from being optimistic. Prasad, the tennis fanatic, said he hopes the partnership will force politicians to pay attention.
The sunset ritual at the Wagah border routinely ends with both sides lowering the flags and slamming the border gates, but Prasad said, “Bopanna and Qureshi offer hope that the gates could stay open in welcome.”