Playing cricket in or with India has for long been a riddle. This is so because politics has superseded sportsmanship, and the fear of the unknown haunts all over. It is a given that sports should be differentiated from politics, and no hindrance created on the path of interactions at the bilateral and multilateral sporty forums. But unfortunately that has not been the case as brewing radicalism in India, especially under the RSS comrades’ mentality, and a weird subsequent cold-shoulder from authorities had undermined the great game of cricket. That is why India and Pakistan duels are now merely restricted to neutral venues, and there has been no touring to each other’s soil for many decades. This is unbecoming of a good neighbourhood and hints at vendetta in body-politick.
The decision on the part of the government to form a high-powered committee to decide over the fate of World Cup fixtures in India is appreciated. It, at least, indicates some serious thinking to take on the tour, and not to brush it aside under assumptions, as India has done with the upcoming Asia Cup in Pakistan. The Green Shirts are supposed to play at five venues, including Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore and Kolkata; and graduate onto Mumbai if they qualify for semi-finals. This makes the event a hot-bed of politics as there are surely some anti-Pakistan sentiments across sections of the Indian landmass. But sports should not be hostage to petty issues, and Pakistan will be better advised to show magnanimity and take on the ICC World Cup tour with full enthusiasm.
Babar Azam and his boys are in the spotlight. They have played exceptionally well over the period of time, and denying them the mega-event will not be a justice. Pakistan has a strong case as a quid-pro-quo by refusing to play in India, but sportsmanship and statesmanship should come together to fly our team to India. Let fervour and nationalism triumph over sentiments of hate and otherness. The subcontinent is crazy to see some good and nail-biting cricket, and India-Pakistan matches are there to make the moment.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2023.