A cricket match between India and Pakistan hits a different chord in the hearts of the two neighbouring nations. Whenever the two sides are scheduled to play an ICC match or compete in Asia Cup, politics somehow pops up. (More Cricket News)
Regardless of the political intervention, India and Pakistan participate in ICC tournaments as both BCCI and PCB are permanent members of the world cricketing body. It was in 2007 when India and Pakistan played the last Test match. The last bilateral limited series between India and Pakistan was played in 2012-13.
Notwithstanding the love for cricket unites India and Pakistan; terrorist attacks, Kashmir conflict, and frequent clashes at the Line of Control end up breaking the hearts of both sides. These issues have virtually ended the bilateral series between the sides. The 2005-06 season was the latest when Pakistan welcomed India for the Test series, while the 2012-13 season was the last time India hosted Pakistan for the limited-overs series.
Over the years, the quality of Pakistan’s cricket has improved manifolds. The men in green have left the cricketing world impressed with their hat-trick of wins in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021. One after the other, the entire Pakistan unit stood up and contributed especially Shaheen Shah Afridi, Babar Azam, and Asif Ali.
On the other hand, India's back-to-back defeats in the T20 World Cup have left Virat Kohli's men staring at an early exit. They not only have to win their remaining group 2 matches but depend on other results as well. Sunday night's defeat against New Zealand was worrying. The batting was awful as the Kiwis exposed the Indian top order with some precision bowling and wonderful fielding.
The leadership of Babar Azam has been impressive too. He picked the right combination of playing XI and has been brilliant with bringing his trump card bowlers at the right time in the proceedings.
But the cherry on top of their last two victories has been Asif Ali whose blitzkrieg changed the fortunes of the side. His cameos in the death overs saw him hammering 7-ball 24 not out, which included four sixes, against Afghanistan and 12-ball 27 not out, which included three maximums.
The Pakistan team at this T20 World Cup is a good mix of youth and experience. Shaheen Afridi’s magical spells against the inaugural T20 champions India and World Test champions New Zealand speak volumes about his imposing figure at the age of just 21.
These performances clearly indicate the intent of the Pakistan Cricket Board to make the national team more professional. Backing Pakistan’s readiness, PCB chief and former cricketer Ramiz Raja batted for the revival of India versus Pakistan rivalry on the ground.
Until India play Pakistan on a regular basis, can BCCI really pride itself as one of the three superpowers of world cricket? Being rich is one thing but for a pure cricket fan what matters is how you play against the best of the world and beat them.
“I met with BCCI President Sourav Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah on the sidelines of the ACC meetings. We need to create a cricketing bond, while I have also believed that politics should stay away from the sport as much as possible and this has always been our stance.
“A lot of work needs to be done to revitalise Pakistan-India cricket but there needs to be some comfort level between the two boards and then we can see how far we can go. So overall, we had a good discussion,” Raja said in a PCB statement.
Being cricketers themselves and having played against each other, both Ganguly and Ramiz understand the importance of the game for both sides. A revival of the bilateral series is the need of the hour as it will expose the best young players against each other. And most importantly it will settle the debate on who is better between Virat Kohli and Babar Azam.
Kohli and Babar Azam were seen sharing camaraderie after Pakistan pulled one back from the World Cup record 12-1. This is a clear indication that there is no bad blood among the players. If that is so, why should a few politicians spoil the script?
To see more of this mutual respect, Shaheen and Jasprit Bumrah’s yorkers, explosive batting from KL Rahul, Hardik Pandya, Fakhar Zaman, and Asif Ali, and not to forget picking up the brains of mentor MS Dhoni, the revitalisation of India and Pakistan bilateral series is all the more important for the spectators.