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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Cricket and Politics: In the context of Pakistan Vs India

The inseparability of politics from cricket cannot justify remarks or actions of this kind at all. Sport should be open to sporting critique only, free from all sorts of religious, racial, or political sentiments. The players on the field are there to represent their country for cricket and cricket only, and that is why all sorts of derogatory actions and assertions are unwelcome. 

There has been a long history of political rivalry between the two neighbors, India and Pakistan; ultimately enhancing cricketing rivalry over the years. Although there have been subsequent exchange tours between the two in history, the first one being in 1952-53 when Pakistan toured India and played 5 tests, resulting in India winning the series by 2-1. The very next year, 1954-55, the Indian National Cricket Team also visited Pakistan to play 5 tests; resulting in a 0-0 draw.

However, the last time India toured Pakistan was in 2005-6. Whereas, the end to the two rivals being involved in a bilateral series was when Pakistan toured India back in 2012-13, with three ODIs and two T20Is. With MS Dhoni being the captain of the Indian National Team and Misbah-ul-Haq of the Pakistan National Team, Pakistan was able to secure the ODI series win by 2-1, whereas the T20I series was drawn. Since then, even having a bilateral series on a neutral ground has been out of the question, let alone exchange tours.

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An initiative by PCB Chairman Ramiz Raja 

After a decade, however – in January 2022 – PCB Chairman Ramiz Raja initiated the idea of proposing a quadrangular T20I series to ICC that would involve the historic rivalries of Pakistan-India and Australia-England. Taking into consideration, BCCI Chairman, Saurav Ganguly, also somewhat advocated a comparable model in 2019, which could not reach a practical conclusion to date. 

The ICC Board of Governing meeting is set to take place from April 7th to April 10th, where the PCB Chairman is to now put forward his intended quadrangular series. Whereas Cricket Australia has already been captivated by the aforementioned idea, and CA Chief Nick Hockley has shown a green signal to host a “tri-series” comprising of arch-rivals – India and Pakistan – and Australia. Nevertheless, ICC’s response on this splendid initiative – for cricket fans – is yet to be recorded.

Read more: Lahore to host international cricket after a decade

Politics and Cricket 

In whichever way the quadrangular series’ proposal is led by the ICC, PCB and the BCCI, the attention shifts back to politics engraved in cricket, especially in the context of India and Pakistan. The debate is often about whether politics is a part of a sport or not; in the given setting, of cricket. Indeed, politics has definitely been incorporated into contemporary cricket, which may have resulted in undesirable consequences. Therefore, the real questions to be taken into account should be 1) whether there’s a need for apolitical cricketing decisions and stances, 2) if yes, then to what extent could/should politics be separated from this game.

In the words of Ramiz Raja himself, Whenever I talk about India and Pakistan, it’s not always as the chairman of a Cricket Board. But it’s the cricketer that comes out. And as a cricketer, I’ll say that politics can be set aside because why should the fans not enjoy India-Pakistan games”, the chairman said in a conversation with Sandeep Dwivedi, posted in The Indian Express on 8th April 2022. Hence, there is a need of unpolitical cricketing “decisions” and “stances” by the respected authorities responsible for their commencement, as politics should never serve the grounds of preventing cricket enthusiasts from spectating considerable Pak Vs. India matches more often.

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Pakistan Vs. India: The Greatest Game of All 

The eager and zealous cricket fans have to wait only for yearly ICC or ACC tournaments to witness the most exhilarating match of all time. Isn’t it unfair to deprive cricket enthusiasts of such exciting games? Isn’t it unfair to the sport itself for its eventuality to be based on utmost political decisions? The superlative degree of nationalism on both sides and the exceptional enthusiasm in the air – derived out of rivalry – when it’s Pak Vs. India is what makes this game the greatest of all.

Therefore, this aura in the cricketing world shall apolitically be valued instead of repressed. Evidence of Pak-India cricket fans’ utmost dedication would be Pakistan Vs. India tickets selling out within hours for the T20 World Cup 2022, hosted by Australia.

Setting Boundaries to Rivalry 

With regard to the extent of detaching cricket from politics, that could be emphasized through some recent incidents of Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed calling Pakistan’s triumph over India in T20 World Cup 2021 a “victory of Islam” or Mohammed Shami facing racial maltreatment after the same aforementioned tournament. Such occurrences express a dire need to set boundaries and a full stop to this rivalry at a certain degree.

The inseparability of politics from cricket cannot justify remarks or actions of this kind at all. Sport should be open to sporting critique only, free from all sorts of religious, racial or political sentiments. The players on the field are there to represent their country for cricket and cricket only, and that is why all sorts of derogatory actions and assertions are unwelcome.

Read more: Australian fans honor cricket hero Shane Warne

First Step to Depoliticization 

Consequently, politics shall not overshadow the ethics of cricket but the high temperament of nationalism should be respected, on both sides, and credited with the spirit of cricket instead. Maybe the first step to the depoliticization of the Pak-India cricketing world would be the successful execution of the proposed Pakistan-India-Australia-England quadrangular series.

Quoting PCB Chairman Ramiz Raja,I’m just hoping that we look at this concept as a cricketing concept and not as a political concept”, as he implied on the quadrangular series. What a sight to cherish would it be if this quadrangular series, if executed, further paves the way for Pakistan-India bilateral series over time?

The writer is a cricket enthusiast. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.