Nation

The many ups-and-downs of the India-Pakistan relationship in cricket

March 27, 2018 05:25 AM

K.C. Vijaya Kumar

The diverse cricketing ties that bind India and Pakistan rest on intense rivalry and bonhomie, perceived grudges and the warmth of nostalgia. The teams on either side of the Radcliffe Line are conscious that their jousts are invested with a gladiatorial air, and some duels serve as a window for diplomatic parleys between the two governments.

There are multiple hues in India-Pakistan cricket. A few books alone can help deconstruct the myths about a historical and significant rivalry, which is on par with the Ashes.

The sporting threads that link India and Pakistan are often remembered in unexpected ways: When Dinesh Karthik recently struck a last-ball six against Bangladesh in Colombo to seize the Nidahas trophy, there was a reflex association with the big strike that Javed Miandad launched against Chetan Sharma to clinch the Austral-Asia Cup at Sharjah in 1986.

The nuances of the India-Pakistan rivalry are often reflected in books. Nationalism hits a high note when Sachin Tendulkar, in his autobiographyPlaying It My Way , dwells on the 2003 World Cup league match at Centurion in South Africa. His match-winning 98 off 75 deliveries is the stuff of legend. He writes: “This is why I played cricket, to be out in the middle for my team, on the world’s biggest cricketing stage, against India’s arch rival. Listening to the national anthem and singing the words gave me goose bumps.”

 

If the players give no quarter on the field, off it they share a rapport. In Sourav Ganguly’s A Century Is Not Enough , the former India skipper recalls a phase when he was dropped, and how the iconic Imran Khan pepped him up. He writes: “Imran said something I shall never ever forget. ‘Sourav, you should fly higher. When you fly in the sky and see dark clouds, the only way to negotiate is to fly higher’.”

The Imran-effect finds mention in another tome, Sanjay Manjrekar’s honest self-portrait, Imperfect . The former India batsman remembers a meeting with Imran where the latter enquires about Manjrekar’s poor show against New Zealand: “The moment he (Imran) saw me he asked me, ‘Why did you play Richard Hadlee off the back foot?’ He told me I played Wasim (Akram) and Waqar (Younis) well because I was looking to move forward all the time. This was a Pakistani following the progress of an Indian and wanting him to do well.”

There are multiple hues in India-Pakistan cricket. A few books alone can help deconstruct the myths about a historical and significant rivalry, which is on par with the Ashes.

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