Last week at Chennai, the BCCI agreed to have a team from Pakistan participate in the Champions League T20 tournament to be held later this year. While the Board’s Working Committee would have considered economics and politics before announcing this, we’re seeing this as India’s first concrete step in years to resume modern cricket’s fiercest rivalry.
After the bilateral series abruptly bore the brunt of terrorism and myopic politics in 2008, relations between the two boards went sour in 2010, when the Indian Premier League franchisees didn’t pick any Pakistani player. We have only witnessed three ODI encounters since, and their results notwithstanding, that clearly isn’t enough to satiate the appetite of cricket that millions on both sides live with.
For starters, the winter tournament (fingers crossed for no terror attacks happening before that!) will feature Sialkot Stallions, current champions of Pakistan’s Twenty20 league. The only players we would recognise easily are Shoaib Malik and Imran Nazir (remember that dashing opener!) but it will be a chance for Indians to witness first hand some fresh talent from across the border, where the lanes of every small town harbour aspiring Shoaib Akhtars and Shahid Afridis. We’re looking forward to Sialkot v/s Delhi (safely assuming they’ll be among top three this IPL!) only because that will be the prelude to more Pakistani stars in forthcoming editions of the summer league.
If Azhar Mehmood winning hearts this ongoing tournament is anything to go by, it only reiterates that we don’t mind cheering for Pakistanis, which was an unimaginable, anti-national act of the 90s! Today, Shah Rukh Khan does miss the services of the fiery Akhtar in KKR, and the Rajasthan Royals too could do better with Tanvir, their charming swing bowler once upon a time. After Ganguly’s boys were cheered for and warmly welcomed in that phenomenal 2004 tour to Pakistan (greatest tournament ever, we feel), we owe it to do the same, at least during an IPL, till we get a bilateral series to celebrate.
Much has been said about why sport should be made immune to international politics but we’d add something more here, given the current scenario. A more prosperous international cricket culture in Pakistan is in good interests of India too, for it will only result in stability and revenues for the region. As of now, it’s a shame that the team that’s given the cricketing world some incredible moments and unforgettable players, cannot host a ‘home’ series at home. The PCB has repeatedly requested India (like it did for the inclusion of Sialkot in CLT20 too) to tour Pakistan once to instill confidence among other teams to begin doing so, and now it’s time for our administrators to shed inhibitions and consider it seriously. Surely the Future Tours Programme of the ICC would be affected but we all know who can arm-twist and change that smoothly! All for a great cause!
Talking of playing cricket with neighbours, Afghanistan makes its international debut at next month’s T20 World Cup – what a moment that would be! A hard-fought Asia Cup featuring this year’s four teams and Afghanistan would be a dream to witness at home, right? 2014? Fingers and toes crossed!
Photo Credits: Cricinfo