'War minus shots': The score has created fierce cricketing rivalry between Pakistan and India

‘War minus shots’: The score has created fierce cricketing rivalry between Pakistan and India

KARACHI: When India and Pakistan emerged from violent partition 75 years ago, the split also created one of sport’s greatest rivalries.

Today, any cricket match between the two nations is one of the most watched events on the world sporting calendar – and victory is used to promote their respective nationalism.

The rivalry between the countries is so strong that they cannot even share the date of the partition which gave them independence, with Pakistan celebrating it on August 14 and India the day after.

“India playing in Pakistan involves the feelings of millions of people,” said Wasim Akram, one of cricketer’s greatest players and now a commentator.

Cricket – ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 – Super 12 – Group 2 – India v Pakistan – Dubai International Stadium, Dubai, United Arab Emirates – October 24, 2021 Pakistan’s Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam celebrate after winning the match. — Reuters/File

“You become a hero if you play well…you are portrayed as a villain if your team loses,” said the former Pakistani skipper.

The matches spark great excitement, but they have also defused military tensions between the two nations, which have fought four wars since independence from Britain in 1947.

During a period of sword-rattling in 1987, as troops massed along their border, Pakistani military leader General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq showed up unannounced in New Delhi — apparently to watch a match between the two.

The decision, as shrewd as any cricket captain could conjure up on the pitch, led to a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, and tensions eased.

“Mother of all matches”

Still, the on-field rivalry has spilled over from the cricket pitch for the time being.

The Neighbors haven’t played a Test since 2007, meeting only in the shorter versions of the game and in multi-team competitions on foreign soil, rather than one-on-one home series.

When they play – as they will at the Asian Cup later this month in the United Arab Emirates – cricket fans around the world are glued to their TV screens, a multi-billion dollar boon for broadcasters.

Skipper Babar Azam with Indian batter and former captain Virat Kohli.  —Reuters
Skipper Babar Azam with Indian batter and former captain Virat Kohli. —Reuters

The 50-year-old World Cup clash between India and Pakistan in 2019 attracted 273 million viewers, while 167 million watched them at last year’s Twenty20 World Cup.

“Nothing can match an India-Pakistan bilateral series because it is played in a different league,” said former prime minister and cricket captain Imran Khan, who led Pakistan to World Cup glory in 1992. sky sports documentary.

“The atmosphere is filled with tension, pressure and fun.”

Pakistan Cricket Board chief executive Faisal Hasnain called the games against India “the mother of all cricket games”.

“Fans want these two countries to play each other regularly, but recovery is only likely when there is a thaw in relations,” he said. AFP.

“We can only wait and hope that happens.”

practice fodder

Introduced to the subcontinent in the 18th century, cricket was mainly played by its white colonial rulers, but locals learned the game by being used as bowlers or batting fodder in practice nets.

India was granted Test status in 1932, but after partition most Muslim players – including three who had played for the national team – migrated to Pakistan, which had to start from scratch.

Pakistan’s first Test, fittingly, was against India, in 1952 – and they were managed by Abdul Hafeez Kardar, one of three double internationals.

Since then, Pakistan and India have played 59 Tests, with Pakistan winning 12, India nine and the rest drawing.

In the ODIs, Pakistan also have the advantage, but India have won seven of their nine T20 encounters.

A depiction of people in the crowd raising their country's flags high during a high tension clash between India and Pakistan.  — Reuters/File
A depiction of people in the crowd raising their country’s flags high during a high tension clash between India and Pakistan. — Reuters/File

In the women’s game, India have won their 11 ODIs and 10 of their 12 Twenty20s since they first met in 2005.

The advent of one-day cricket only deepened the rivalry with one commentator calling their clashes ‘war minus the shots’.

In 1991, Aaqib Javed’s seven-wicket strike, including a hat-trick, helped Pakistan win the Wills Trophy in Sharjah in a game that ended in near darkness, sparking outrage among the team Indian loser and fans.

“They complained about it for months,” Aaqib said dryly.

But Pakistani fans have also shown their bile, sending death threats to Wasim Akram after he withdrew from a key final against India due to injury.

“Sometimes the fan reaction is intolerable,” Akram said.

Former Indian batsman Sanjay Manjrekar says he misses the regular clashes against Pakistan.

“He was my favorite opponent for all the entertainment they provided on the pitch with their jokes,” he said. AFP.

“Plus the fact that they were a damn good team.”

Header and thumbnail image: Cricket fans, with their faces painted in the colors of the Indian and Pakistani national flags, pose for a photo before the first match between India and Pakistan at the Twenty20 World Cup super 12 stage in Dubai, Dubai Ahmedabad, India, October 23, 2021. – Reuters/File

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