Switch Hit : Nimish Patgaonkar
The matches of the Asia Cup have started. This is the preparation for the World Cup which is just a month and a half away for the teams of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. The politics behind the organization of this Asia Cup was played out before the competition started. This gurhal has been going on for the past several months. The result of this is that the host of this Asia Cup is Pakistan and this tournament will be played in the countries of Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Now we will find the king of Asia after playing on different pitches of Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
All this confusion started when we were unable to play in Pakistan due to security reasons. Politically strained relations and security concerns have been our reasons for not playing Pakistan for the past several years. What exactly is the policy behind this is confusing. Asian Cricket Council president Jai Shah, who is acting BCCI, informed the ICC that the Indian team will not play in Pakistan. This politics started from there. In response, Pakistan threatened to pull out of the World Cup in India. This game between two boards lasted for a few weeks. After that, the Asia Cup will be hosted by Pakistan, but India’s matches will be played in Sri Lanka and Pakistan’s team will play in the World Cup in India.
In fact, this debate should have started earlier. This India-Pakistan board dispute always erupts and ends quietly, knowing that it is not that easy for the ICC or the Asia Cricket Council to pull out of the tournament. India is a superpower in cricket today. So Pakistan has no choice but to listen to everything India says. The basic question here is whether India doesn’t want to play in Pakistan because of India-Pakistan political relations or because they don’t trust Pakistan’s security? At least this time the security reason was given in the ICC’s letter. Teams like New Zealand, England, Australia are starting to play in Pakistan now due to political turmoil (which is always there). The Sri Lankan team bus was fired upon in Pakistan in 2009 and international cricket in Pakistan came to a standstill. After this 2009 incident, international cricket in Pakistan resumed in 2015 when Zimbabwe toured Pakistan. In 2017, Sri Lanka played a series against Pakistan in UAE. However, the situation was tested by playing a Twenty20 match in Lahore and then the Sri Lankan team also toured Pakistan in 2019. In that tour, 7 Sri Lankan players refused to go. Still his board sent the team. Many foreign players started coming to play in Pakistan Super League. After the 2009 incident, Pakistan provides foreign Prime Minister or President-level security to foreign players, especially the team. Since cricket is a glamorous game, we only discuss it. However, the Indian bridge team was playing a tournament in Lahore, Pakistan when the recent uproar in Pakistan over the ouster of former Prime Minister Imran Khan. The competition did not suffer from this confusion. However, the team was provided full security in the Lahore hotel itself. It said that its players in this team were of high standard and security upon their return. Bridge players can go to Pakistan. But, can’t there be a national policy on cricketers? If the policy is to sever international relations with Pakistan in all sports, it is not possible at the global level. We play together in ICC cricket tournaments and Asian tournaments. Neeraj Chopra stands neck to neck with Pakistani javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem on the medal podium. Pakistan football team also appears in the SAFF tournament in India and also in the World Cup.
Now Pakistan team will play in India. We play together in various hockey tournaments. Not only that, we banned Pakistani players in IPL after their first seasons. However, retired Indian cricketers who take advantage of the board’s various schemes for retired players, allow them to play in the same team as Pakistani players. Abu Dhabi T-10, Legends League, Lankan Premier League, Nepal T20 League and Caribbean Premier League are the five leagues that have retired Indian players and Pakistani players in the same team. Looking at all this, it can be seen that India has a different policy with Pakistan regarding different sports and different competitions. Both countries know that it is not possible to completely sever sports ties with Pakistan. Pakistan can come to India, but if the policy is that India will not go to Pakistan, that is not applicable to all sports. Keeping aside all the politics and security reasons, sports fans want to see a match against Pakistan in any sport, be it cricket, hockey or javelin. India have not played a Test cricket series against Pakistan since 2007 and have not played a limited overs series since 2012.
Journalists, spectators and players who have traveled from India to Pakistan have never complained or heard about Pakistan’s hosting and hospitality. If our national policy is to play against Pakistan, then at least at a neutral place, we can hope to see the Ashes match between India and Pakistan in Asia. Currently, with this politics and ambiguous policy, there is no substitute for these controversies to erupt before every major tournament.