It’s a foggy morning on December 30, 2012. All the fans were hyped up for the big match and as they logged into the TV screen, Junaid Khan – the new Pakistani fast bowling sensation was ripping through the Indian batting lineup. Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli, and Rohit Sharma were all grounded against the pace and swing of the Pakistani attack and the scorecard read 29-5 in no time. Next came the counterattack of Mahendra Singh Dhoni along with Suresh Raina and R.Ashwin to get India out of embarrassment. Pakistan went on to win the match and the series.
That was the last bilateral cricket series between the two arch rivals and the excitement was something else for the fans in those days. It was so much so that a dead rubber low scoring the third ODI of the series was widely cherished among the Indian cricket fans despite losing the series against their nemesis. Since then, there have been proposals, rumours, and refusals of bilateral cricket between the two subcontinent nations but all in vain.
Where is the ‘Noise’ coming from?
Once again, the cricketing circuit is stoked with the possibility of a test series between India and Pakistan in England after ECB offered to host the two nations as a neutral venue. But very soon, the BCCI put a disappointing end to the speculations saying India will only play Pakistan in the multilateral tournaments and no bilateral cricket is on the charts. Both the countries last played a test match back in 2007, fifteen years ago and who would not have fancied the likes of Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, and Shubman Gill against fast and furious Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah, and Hassan Ali? There is a very outside possibility of India and Pakistan playing the World Test Championship final but given that both these countries are not in the top two of the points table right now, this wishful thinking of them playing in the WTC finals should better be left to the stars.
The Golden Egg doesn’t hatch!
An India – Pakistan cricket match is a gold mine for any venue or any broadcasting authority. And it is not surprising that ECB wanted to encash the rivalry but at a moment when the two cricketing boards – PCB and BCCI maintain minimal interaction, chances of bilateral cricket happening anytime soon remain bleak. Both the boards have been at loggerheads even at ICC regarding a bilateral cricketing arrangement. PCB alleged that BCCI had signed a memorandum concerning playing six series between 2015 and 2023 while BCCI referred to the lack of governmental clearance as a reason to not play.
Even though the people in both countries are ardent cricket fans which was yet again visible during the Asia Cup a few weeks ago, the deadlock between the political leaders of the two neighbours remains a primary reason behind this deficit in India-Pakistan bilateral series. The fans are so emotionally attached to the game that a loss for either India or Pakistan doesn’t bode well in the respective country. An array of online and offline trolls and banters are unleashed before and after the matches. In the last year, there have been three T20Is between India and Pakistan – one in the T20 world cup last year and two in Asia Cup this year. Pakistan won on two occasions including a comprehensive victory at the T20 world cup.
Due to the India – Pakistan rivalry, even Asia Cup this year was livened up gathering the viewership of millions of cricketing fans in the subcontinent and outside. Asia Cup, World Cups, and Champions Trophy remain the only medium of cricket between the two cricket-loving nations. From a TRP point of view, we have seen how an India – Pakistan contest is proactively being used to market and publicize any tournament.
Currently, Pakistan is playing a 7-match T20I series against England and India is playing a 3-match T20I series against South Africa. Both teams are sweating it out to prepare for the upcoming T20 world cup where yet again, we are going to witness an India vs Pakistan game on the 23rd of October. While we all gear up for that cracking contest, we also hope that the formal talks of resumption of cricketing ties between the two countries begin soon. After all, for the cricket fans in the two countries, nothing beats the excitement of an India – Pakistan game!