Tennis ace Sania to marry Pakistan cricketer

India’s tennis sensation Sania Mirza and the former Pakistan cricket captain Shoaib Malik are set to tie the nuptial knot sometime this month. The families of the couple confirmed the news and said that there would be reception parties in both Pakistan and India. Sania’s family said there will be no engagement prior to the wedding.

The Indian star’s surprise decision came two months after she called off her engagement to childhood friend Sohrab Mirza, citing incompatibility. Interestingly, Malik was also engaged and/or “married” to one Ayesha Siddiqui from Hyderabad some years ago but later called it off. Malik said in January 2008 that his marriage plans with Ayesha ended because both families could not reach an understanding over certain issues. Though denying that their “marriage” was invalid, Shoaib had to “divorce” her on 7 April in order to avoid legal complications.

Sania, the first Indian to win a WTA tour event in 2005 had made the world Top 40 in tennis, reaching No. 27 but later slipped from her 2007 career peak to the 92nd spot. Malik is currently disgraced in Pakistan where he is serving a year’s ban from the national cricket team for sabotaging this year’s disastrous winter tour of Australia, where they failed to win a single match. Malik, a former national captain, was singled out by the Pakistan Cricket board for undermining team support for his success.

Sania’s decision to marry a Pakistani cricketer has created quite a stir. Some even hope the coming together of two sporting icons of India and Pakistan will improve ties between the two nations.

Commenting on the above suggestion, the 23-year-old Sania said they didn’t really think their marriage would have anything to do with politics. “I mean today I am as much an Indian as I was yesterday even before I took the decision to marry Shoaib and he is also as much Pakistani as he was yesterday. I am going to keep playing for India, India is my country and it will always remain so,” she said. The couple, reportedly, is planning to settle down in Dubai after marriage.
Meanwhile, some right-wing nationalist groups in some parts of the country condemned and protested against Sania’s decision to marry the Pakistani cricketer and raised slogans against her, the Central Government and the Andhra Pradesh Government. They demanded the tennis player be deported from the country and the government to take back all the awards given to her. Some protesters also burned an effigy of her in Mumbai, a day after the tennis star confirmed the news.    

T. Riyas Babu