It would be an understatement to say that Pakistan’s decisive victory over India the other day made me happy. I’ll admit that I was ecstatic bordering on euphoric, not only because I had been constantly praying for them to make a ridiculously impossible comeback in the tournament, but also because it was the first time in almost 15 years that I saw the team playing with such energy and determination. It was heartening to see them diving all over the place, attacking the wickets and taking jabs at every other ball. This tournament brought out the side in them that I had been longing to see!
The team which once ruled the Cricketing world in all formats of the game had been reduced to whipping boys in the mid 2000’s, and could be counted on to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Mired in fixing scandals, administrative ineptitude and politicization, cricket in Pakistan was dying a slow death. The situation was intensified by the menace of terrorism which had been haunting the country since 2006 and which lead to every international team refusing to play in Pakistan.
I was happy to see the unifying force of sport that made everyone forget about the plethora of social and political ills that have for so long been plaguing the country. I was also pleased to see many Indians congratulating Pakistanis on the win and hoping for a revival of the team.
I write this post not to take jabs at the Indian team, neither is it an attempt to undermine their achievements. I would however like the people of India to take a practical step in exercising their democratic powers and request their authorities to restore Cricketing ties with Pakistan. Restoration of India-Pakistan cricket (including home series) would go a long way in restoring faith between the two countries, and would also make it easier to convince international teams to return to Pakistan. India is after all one of the most influential members of the ICC and has a major stake in all of its decisions. It is a known fact that India has been refusing to play bilateral cricket with Pakistan for over 5 years now, and has lobbied internationally to ensure that Cricket doesn’t return to Pakistan any time soon. The idea of isolating Pakistan is not new, and has been around for over 10 years.
While many disagree, there is indeed a major group of hardliners in India that influences the policies of the BCCI and the Indian government when it comes to ties with Pakistan. This was evident during the years leading up to the 2011 Cricket World Cup, which was scheduled to be hosted collectively between India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Pakistan’s hosting rights were taken away after the Sri Lankan team was attacked in Lahore, and international players including those from India cited security concerns about playing in Pakistan. I sincerely believe that had Pakistan been allowed to host that world cup, Cricket would have returned much earlier to the country. Similar was the case of the 2009 Champions Trophy, which was stripped away from Pakistan after several countries withdrew their diplomatic support. It was in these moments that Pakistan needed India’s support the most, which it withheld.
The Indian Premier League bans Pakistani players from participating in it, which has had an obvious impact on the physical and psychological state of our players. Whether this is due to political reasons is debatable, but there have been incidents involving Pakistani commentators as well who were told to leave India due to pressure and threats by hardline groups. And while the cricketing world evolved with the annual T20 event, Pakistan was conveniently left out of the fray, ensuring that its team would be unable to keep up. It would be a major step at creating goodwill if Pakistani players are included in the next IPL tournament.
Despite everything, the international boycott, the labels, the lack of adequate training regimes and public disapproval, the Pakistani team still manages to somehow defy the odds and produce a memorable performance.
I’ve read quite a few ‘odes’ to Pakistan’s ‘unbelievable’ victories recently, calling for ‘more power’ to the team and thanking them for restoring the faith of people in ‘underdogs’. I’m sure it was well received.
But voicing disapproval would go a longer way rather than conveniently playing the role of silent observers when hardliners and hate mongers demonize Pakistan in the name of ideology.