India-Pakistan Cricket and Conflict

India Pakistan Cricket

India Pakistan Cricket

Those who have watched the India-Pakistan T20 World Cup match at the Eden Gardens last night would unanimously agree that more than a country, the victory went to an excellent game of cricket played by two impressive cricketing nations. It was wonderful to hear Shahid Afridi appreciating ‘smart cricket’ by India and M.S. Dhoni acknowledging Pakistan’s ‘strong bowling attack’. There was never any acrimony in an India-Pakistan match, and yesterday was no different. There were friendly banters on the field and a healthy competitive mood throughout the contest.

Even in politics, there had been times when new waves of optimism drowned all tensions and lit up the possibility of a resolution to age-old conflict. PM Modi taking a last-minute detour from his busy schedule and visiting Nawaz Sharif on the Christmas Eve and Pakistan showing willingness to resume ‘Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue’ on Kashmir and Terrorism have reprised the feeling of India-Pak bonhomie.

India vs. Pakistan: Bilateral Cricket and Politics

However, there has been a dichotomy in bilateral relations – be it sports or politics. Both the nations have been iffy about every possible prospect of playing each other. The nationalists and cricket lovers find themselves at loggerheads on this question: Should we be playing against each other? Time and again, there have been strong calls for banning India-Pakistan cricket match, not even on a neutral venue. How silly is the idea? How can you expect to bust terror cells operating from the Abbottabad by depriving cricket lovers of a healthy dose of sixes by Afridi or the sight of Mohammad Sami scampering through the wicket to rattle the wickets?

India should leave it to Ajit Doval to take care of the “terror emanating from the neighbouring country”. Let him develop country’s security apparatus, stem terrorist attack, strengthen physical security, while the likes of Kohli and Bumrah bring laurels to Indian cricket. Let the governments on both sides of the border discuss Kashmir and allow the scenic Dharamshala witness a historic game.

Indian and Pakistani Cricket Boards

It’s disheartening so the level of mistrust between PCB and BCCI, especially when it comes to security of their players. Pakistan is already going through a phase of atonement: international teams are reluctant to play in Pakistan after the 2009 attacks on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore. A team, which is already facing a challenge inviting international teams on their home turf, could find itself at the brink of oblivion if it is not allowed to play in India.

While India has every right to blame Pakistan for being a tacit supporter of home-grown terror outfits, Pakistan can, similarly, question India’s repeated attempt to foil the possibility of playing some sensational matches. Political history came in the way of enriching the cricketing history of both the nations. Every time terror haunted India and ‘conspiracy theory’ was hatched on the Indian soil, cricket has been taken hostage. In 1991, Shiv Sena vandalised the pitch at Wankhede stadium in Mumbai and Pakistan’s tour was cancelled. Just when the Pakistan team was in its prime, after winning the 1992 World Cup, it had to cancel tours to India for two consecutive years.

India may remember Hafeez Saeed for long and won’t forget Osama soon enough, but the memories of Wasim Akram’s inswinging yorker, Waqar Younis’ reverse swing and the lethal pace of Shoaib Akhtar are etched permanently. Hence, it is mutually beneficial for both India and Pakistan to do whatever they can to keep the spirit of bilateral cricket alive.