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On The Brink of Sanity : India v Pakistan Cricket

September 27, 2009

CRICKET-INDIA-PAKISTAN-FANS

Excited about Pakistan’s victory in todays ODI vs. India at the ICC Champions Trophy, i looked for YouTube highlights of previous India Pakistan matches hoping to relive thrilling performances of batsmen trembling at Akram/Younis yorkers or some record breaking Tendulkar/Sehwag innings. But I was unable to find a consolidated reel of South Asian highlights as such. It seems all content pertaining to Indian and Pakistani Cricket are elaborately produced showcases of either country triumphing over the other, or amusing clips revealing serious sledging between both teams over the years. And that’s understandable, it’s a competitive sport and fans create videos for the teams they support.

But something is changing. I don’t think fans are looking at these videos the same way as years past. Sambit Bal wrote a nice precursor to today’s match describing the epic India Pakistan rivalry as something far more profound than just another sporting competition. He says cricket in South Asia “has always been close to the national identity”. Quite astutely, he describes how it’s then used: “sometimes as a salve, sometimes a weapon; it has enabled bonding and it has divide; at times it has been a bridge, at others a vehicle for ugly chauvinism; and governments have used it as both a handshake as well as a show of fists”. And therein lies the dilemma.

India Pakistan matches are tremendously exciting, wrought with raw enthusiasm and incredible anticipation, but wind up raising stakes far higher than are normal or necessary. Bal says cricket is close to South Asian “national identity”, and in conversations I’ve heard matches described as akin to “war” or “religion”. That’s just going too far.

To inextricably tie these matches to one’s identity or religious affiliation let alone actual combat is absurd, but fortunately, a phenomenon that’s shrinking. Less and less are India Pakistan matches carrying the same weight for masses and even players. Bal explains that because matches between the countries have increased since 2004, an

“overkill took away the anticipation and intensity. But from a larger perspective, it also took away the heat and emotional charge, and that was not a bad thing at all. Since they were always playing, wins and losses no longer felt like life and death. It felt somewhat dull, but it also felt sane.”

Ahhhh, it felt sane. Now that’s a great way to put it. Cricket shouldn’t be a tool or driving force of nationality, politics let alone international relations. That’s a recipe for perpetual division, which is the last thing South Asia, or the world for that matter needs right now. So even if India Pakistan matches are seeing diminished anticipation, at least it shifts our focus toward the game itself rather than political, social and religious issues which ought to be unrelated. Because a heightened concentration on the game of cricket can finally allow us to debate what’s truly interesting. Like how Pakistan is the only team capable of winning a match in the last ten over’s by scoring 100+ runs while India is the only team who can do that in the first ten 😉

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6 comments

  1. Good point. A doze of sanity can never be bad 🙂

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  2. great post. I have no words to thank for such a useful and informative post

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  3. […] and Pakistani’s have a perceived animosity for one another that verges on the irrational. Catapulting cricket matches between both countries as akin to war, hate crimes against Muslims in India to cross border terrorism is absurd for country divided by […]

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  4. […] and Pakistani’s have a perceived animosity for one another that verges on the irrational. Catapulting cricket matches between both countries as akin to war, hate crimes against Muslims in India to cross border terrorism is absurd for country divided by […]

    Like


  5. […] and Pakistani’s have a perceived animosity for one another that verges on the irrational. Catapulting cricket matches between both countries as akin to war, hate crimes against Muslims in India to cross border terrorism is absurd for states divided by man […]

    Like


  6. […] and Pakistani’s have a perceived animosity for one another that verges on the irrational. Catapulting cricket matches between both countries as akin to war, hate crimes against Muslims in India to cross border terrorism is absurd for states divided by man […]

    Like



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