Cricket and India-Pak predicament!

Decks seem to have cleared for the smooth conduct of the International Cricket Council (ICC) One-Day Iternational (ODI) World Cup scheduled to be held in India and Sri Lanka in October/November, with the Pakistan government clearing its national team’s participation. The decision gives millions of fans across the cricket playing nations, particularly in the sub-continent, reason for joy as the traditional rivals are set to exhibit their talents. Pakistan’s match against India is tentatively scheduled to be held in Ahmedabad. While clearing its national team, the Pakistan government said that this is not an unusual move and that it is a standard procedure. Even in other sports too, the respective federations have to get clearance from the government for the teams to visit India, it clarified. In the same breath, Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Ministry claimed; “We maintained consistency that sports should not be mixed with politics. Therefore, it was decided to send the cricket team to India to participate in the upcoming ICC Cricket World Cup 2023.” It also reiterated that Pakistan believes the state of bilateral relations with India should not stand in the way of fulfilling its international sports-related obligations. It also boasts of the decision shows their constructive and responsible approach vis-à-vis India’s ‘intransigent’ attitude, as the latter had refused to send its cricket team to Pakistan for the Asia Cup. The World Cup schedule has been hit by several delays and tweaks. Pakistan’s fixture against India was brought forward by a day to avoid a clash with the festival of Navaratri. That created a knock-on effect, with Pakistan’s earlier game against Sri Lanka on October 12 moved to October 10 to give them enough time to prepare, arrangements that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) agreed to. The PCB accepted those date changes to their fixtures. On Saturday, the Cricket Association of Bengal requested the Board of Control for Cricket in India to have Pakistan’s game against England moved from November 12 to November 11, to avoid a clash with Kali Puja festival.

Meanwhile, the meetings between both sides are confined to ICC tournaments due to their political tensions. While India remains undefeated in the ODI World Cup, Pakistan registered their first win over arch-rivals in the T20 edition in 2021, beating India by 10 wickets. As far as Asia Cup is concerned, though the schedule has been finalized, India decided not to send its team to Pakistan, said Indian Premier League chairman Arun Dhumal. Although Pakistan may boast of its stand that sports shall not be mixed with politics, its failure to provide basic security to visiting international sports teams exposes how disturbed a nation it is. The Sri Lankan cricket team’s bus was attacked by terrorists on March 3, 2009, injuring six players and killing eight Pakistanis, including six policemen. Added to that several other teams like Australia and England also refused to send their teams to Pakistan, raising security concerns.

Contrary to this, there are no security problems on Indian soil. Matured Indian cricket fans enjoy both teams playing good games and whoever performs well is being cheered and appreciated. Even, tolerant Indians never find objections if some of their fans waving Pakistani flags or bursting crackers after their victory over India. They take such defeats into their strides. That is the track record of a tolerant India, while it is not the same with Pakistan where the crowds go berserk and even attack the other team. Hence, India cannot take the Pakistan government’s tall claims and allow its sports teams to play there, risking their lives. After its cricket team, the Pakistan government may as well clear its Hockey Federation’s request to take part in Asian Champions Trophy in Chennai this month. It is well known that Pakistan’s football team participated in the recently-concluded South Asian Football Federation Championships in Bengaluru without a hitch. Can a terror nation like Pakistan, which is known for sheltering international militant groups and use its soil as training ground for them, provide the same kind of security guarantee as India to their foreign visiting teams? Well, pro-Pakistani groups within India and the Opposition parties, which quite often justify Pakistan’s policies pursued towards India, may now demand Narendra Modi government to reciprocate Pakistan’s ‘gesture.’ Yes, by reviving the sports exchange programmes between the two nations to improve bilateral relations, especially the cricket and hockey series, notwithstanding the fact that cross-border terrorism perpetrated day in and day out by that rogue nation.