#division #led #fierce #cricket #rivalry
When India and Pakistan were forged through a violent partition 75 years ago, the split also created one of the sport’s greatest rivalries.
Today, every cricket match between the two nations is one of the most watched events on the global sporting calendar – and the win is used to promote their respective nationalism.
The rivalry between the countries is so intense that they cannot even name the date of the partition that gave them independence: Pakistan celebrates it on August 14 and India a day later.
“For India to play Pakistan touches the emotions of millions,” said Wasim Akram, one of the greatest cricketers of all time and now a commentator.
“You become a hero when you perform well… you are portrayed as a villain when your team loses,” said the former Pakistani skipper.
Matches fuel great passion, but they’ve also eased military tensions between the two nations, which have fought four wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.
During a period of saber-rattling in 1987 as troops massed along their border, Pakistan’s military ruler General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq showed up unannounced in New Delhi – ostensibly to watch a match between the two.
The move, as clever as any cricket captain could conjure up on the pitch, led to a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and tensions eased.
– ‘Mother of all games’ –
Still, the on-field rivalry has emanated from the cricket field for the time being.
The Neighbors haven’t played a Test since 2007, only meeting in the shorter versions of the game and in multi-team competitions on foreign soil rather than in head-to-head series at home.
When they play – as they will at the Asia Cup later this month in the United Arab Emirates – cricket fans around the world are glued to their television screens, a multi-billion dollar bonanza for broadcasters.
The 50-game 2019 World Cup clash between India and Pakistan attracted 273 million viewers, while 167 million watched them at last year’s Twenty20 World Cup.
“Nothing can compare to an India-Pakistan bilateral series because it’s played in a different league,” former prime minister and cricket captain Imran Khan, who led Pakistan to the 1992 world title, said in a Sky Sports documentary.
“The atmosphere is full of tension, pressure and joy.”
Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Faisal Hasnain called matches against India the “mother of all cricket matches”.
“The fans want these two countries to play each other regularly, but a resumption is only likely if there is a thaw in relations,” he told AFP.
“We can only wait and hope that happens.”
– exercise food –
Introduced to the subcontinent in the 18th century, cricket was played primarily by its white colonizers, but locals learned the game by using it as bowling or batting fodder in the practice nets.
India gained Test status in 1932, but after partition most of the Muslim players – including three who had played for the national team – migrated to Pakistan, which had to rebuild from scratch.
Pakistan’s first Test was fittingly against India in 1952 – and they were led by Abdul Hafeez Kardar, one of three doubles internationals.
Since then, Pakistan and India have played 59 Tests, with Pakistan winning 12, India nine and the rest drawing.
In ODIs, Pakistan is also ahead, but India has won seven of their nine T20 encounters.
In women, India has won all 11 of their ODIs and 10 of their 12 Twenty20s since they first met in 2005.
The advent of one-day cricket only increased the rivalry, with one commentator describing their clashes as “war minus shooting”.
In 1991, Aaqib Javed’s seven goals, including a hat-trick, helped Pakistan win the Wills Trophy in Sharjah in a game that almost ended in darkness, sparking outrage from the losing Indian team and fans.
“They whined about it for months,” Aaqib said dryly.
But Pakistani fans also showed their gall, sending Wasim Akram death threats after he was sidelined from a crucial final against India through injury.
“Sometimes the reaction from the fans is unbearable,” said Akram.
Former Indian batsman Sanjay Manjrekar said he misses regular clashes against Pakistan.
“It was my favorite opponent because of all the entertainment they provided with their on-pitch banter,” he told AFP.
“Plus the fact that they were a damn good team.”
#division #led #fierce #cricket #rivalry