Should Indo-Pak rivalry be revived?
There are few issues that polarise opinion in the country than this one, as sundry heated debates on prime time after PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan’s visit last week seeking India’s support for a bilateral series shows. But I will risk the rebuke of bellicose naysayers and say they should.This decision, of course, is beyond the powers of the two boards. This is vested in the Indian government which is yet to take a call. But there are compelling reasons why the BCCI and PCB would be eager for a quick resumption of ties.The PCB is in dire straits financially. A series against India, even if played off-shore, would boost its coffers considerably. The BCCI, on the other hand, would be happy playing Pakistan to stave off a growing threat from the Essel Group to establish a parallel cricket universe.While a rival international body would be directly in conflict with the ICC if it lures away talent — especially from vulnerable countries like Pakistan — the oblique collateral damage would be the greatest to the BCCI, which is the richest, most powerful cricket board in the world.Indo-Pak cricket, with its unique flavour that has made it the sport’s biggest blockbuster, would be a deterrent of sorts to a hostile takeover — apart from making loads of money for the two Boards. But whatever the appeal of the cricket, it can’t be seen only through the prism of sport.There is a socio-political dimension to the contest that is more relevant. This is where the polarisation begins. However, the argument that relations between India and Pakistan are currently not ‘normal’ is both specious and puerile. Given the peculiar shared history, disputes and disagreements have existed for all of the 65 years since the two countries got freedom, so what’s normal?If anything, it is sport — particularly cricket — and cinema that have helped India and Pakistan overcome obstacles find the same wavelength every now and then to co-exist, between periods of hostility and great mistrust. There was no way cricket can be encouraged, for instance, in the immediate aftermath of the 26/11 terror attacks, or going back in time, after the 1965, 1971 and 1999 wars.It is not possible to play in Pakistan because of security reasons. But an offshore series (in the UAE or elsewhere) is eminently possible. The two governments are in continuing dialogue to improve relations and that PM Narendra Modi invited his Pakistan counterpart, Nawaz Sharif for his swearing in a year ago. If the government is pursuing other means to find peace, why a question mark over cricket?
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