Indo-Pak relations: Politics of cricket

Bikram Vohra
Bikram Vohra

Bikram Vohra

By : Bikram Vohra

With its pockets full and spilling over the mighty BCCI does not have to play Pakistan in cricket at any venue at any time and we all know that. Even PCB President Shaharyar Khan knows it even though he tries hard to display enthusiasm. His coffers are relatively empty and the BCCI is taking advantage of that despair.

There is a little bit of political gamesmanship by India in this selective reluctance over bilaterals? If it is such a prickly pear we should then avoid playing the men in green at all venues in all tournaments like we did South Africa during the apartheid days. By that token we should also avoid engaging in any sport with them if it makes us so uncomfortable to have a one on one series. Why only select a part of cricket?

Just like airline pilots erroneously asking passengers to stay in their seats till the aircraft comes to a complete halt (as opposed to half a halt?) you cannot have half a boycott. Either let’s not play them at any sport or get over this foot dragging ‘we will, won’t’ exercise when it comes to cricket. Boycott and halt are absolutes, not open to percentages.

India and Pakistan signed an MoU to play six bilateral between now and 2022. That’s practically one a year. It should be honored or scrapped. At the outset, the UAE is Pakistan’s official home ground and OK’d by the ICC. You cannot have Pakistan playing in India and then not accepting the return match in Pakistan’s adopted country of play. That would be a breach of hospitality and good manners and against the official guidelines of a bilateral agreement. Someone should have the courage to say, look either go by the spirit of the MoU or cancel it.

Come Oct. 8 and both countries will meet in the UAE for the ICC meeting and discuss the possibility of a December cricfest by agreeing to play two Tests, five one-day internationals and two Twenty20 matches in the Emirates. It has got three top class stadiums, a balanced expat community from both sides of the border and the highest security rating. It’s also great fun to be in the Emirates for the players, the officials, the fans and the media … the players especially are lionized to an almost absurd extent. Indians and Pakistanis scramble to be integral to the cricket fever. Santa Claus has nothing on the expensive gifts showered on all not to mention the extravagant hospitality. So, will India come in two months? I still have reservations. It’s a lot more fun to dangle carrots and offer slivers of hope than to fetch up and face some opposition and much pressure if the games were to be lost. That is something the BCCI would not want. Imagine going home losers? If you are sitting in the catbird seat financially why risk your neck, let’s use patriotism as a canopy and score brownie points.

Herein lies the rub. Both nations have smeared the sport with the sticky paint of chauvinism and turned it into a war.

The drums are loud but clear: We can beat you, we will beat you, we are more powerful than you, it’s an extension of 1965 and 1971.

This sentiment increasingly forms an integral part of national pride and fervor. It began in the aftermath of 1971, grew through the Simla agreement of 1972, survived eleven high level meetings and 16 summits, was sanctified in Agra last year and now is well alive and thriving in Islamabad, Delhi and every city, town and hamlet in both countries.

On this canvas those that espouse peace or seek to advocate a long overdue return to good sense are lynched as anti-nationals and marginalized. Their opinions are ignored and they have to suffer the wrath of the masses. Again, the social fabric demands equating hostility with moral courage and peace with cowardice. So insidiously has this been woven into the subcontinental psyche that it now nourishes the divide rather than bridge it.

Is it any wonder that in this vortex of violent thought even a sport like cricket has been elevated to a gladiatorial contest, with glee toward the loser reaching an ugly level?

Like I said either play Pakistan at every game or turn your back and walk away because the ingrained prejudices will not go away, Bet on it.

Incursions on the border are not going to stop. Time to delink the two aspects. Get real.

What price cricket when merely a handshake between the two prime ministers in a third country makes for high voltage front page news. Will they, won’t they … whatever!


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