While India should be grateful that it played Pak despite the weather, its two points in World Cup were never in doubt
Freshly minted member of the Lok Sabha and a hero of India’s 2011 World Cup run, Gautam Gambhir mentioned in a post-match television show that Pakistan is not the cricket team it once was and the essence of the India-Pakistan rivalry in cricket is not quite the same anymore. Looking at the evidence of the recent past, with the exception of the Champions Trophy finals loss to Pakistan, India has become so much better as a cricket team that it has left its neighbour way behind. A whole generation of Indians grew up traumatised by Javed Miandad’s last-ball six of Chetan Sharma in Sharjah. The names of Pakistan’s greats were on our tongues and beating powerful teams in that era was an achievement. We all celebrated when a teenager Sachin Tendulkar emerged on the scene, smashing four sixes of Abdul Qadir, announcing himself to the world. The 1992 World Cup win over Pakistan, where the antics between Kiran More and Miandad cannot be forgotten by those who witnessed it, India’s legendary victory in Bengaluru in 1996 and the 2011 win at Mohali are matches whose memory will live long. Sunday’s match at Old Trafford, Manchester, though will not join that pantheon of amazing World Cup matches between the two nations, it will just be India’s seventh straight victory at the global tournament.
Of course, the Pakistani establishment’s antipathy towards India and support to terrorists have led to a suspension of India-Pakistan sporting ties. So any current contest between these two nation states, forged in the violence of the Partition of pre-independence India, tends to be hyped up. That is also in small part due to the rise of political forces who have made nationalism their main plank in both nations. Yet, despite the serendipitous rise of India as a cricketing powerhouse over the past decade, there was in many Indian fans a feeling of regret at the decline of Pakistan. Yes, our errant neighbour played and won a great match against pre-tournament favourites England but the World Cup hosts contributed immensely to their own decline in that match. There is no doubt that Pakistani cricket has suffered immensely from the effective global boycott of tours in their nation, with most tours being played in the United Arab Emirates.
The Pakistan Super League is but a poor imitation of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and with a fraction of the monetary riches. The IPL, despite its detractors, has played a critical role in identifying and grooming domestic talent in India, gradually building a second line of talent. Players like Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja are gems formed in that competitive and literally hot cauldron. This should be evidence to the powers that be in Pakistan that their isolation is not just leading to a declining economy but also impacting their sporting prowess. Once upon a time, the world trembled at the Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis duo, the elegance of Saeed Anwar and lackadaisical charm of Inzamam ul-Haq. Now no Pakistani player is mentioned in the same breath as most members of the Indian playing XI, with the exception of Mohammad Amir, an exceptional fast bowler but also a convicted match-fixer. Pakistan should pursue for peace and dismantle its terror network not just for economic reasons but to revive its moribund cricket scene. And even if Imran Khan does not understand the economy, he, more than anyone else, should be able to see the decline in Pakistani cricket.
Writer & Courtesy: The Pioneer