200,000 to 2 million deaths – That’s how the rivalry began. That’s how it started. It’s certainly more than just a mere game of cricket. Much more than a verbal spat between Shahid Afridi and Gautam Gambhir.
Partition happened in 1947 and it changed things. Forever. As the famous Indian poet Gulzar said – ‘The wounds will take decades to heal, centuries to overcome the trauma.‘
Wars have been fought. The combined effect of such suffering left chilling effects on generations to come. So much so that you grow up hating on the other country. Hatred with a blend of passion that is impetuous in every sense.
It is, somewhat like, Liverpool and Everton in football. Minus the suffering. The history among the two nations has dark stains on it.
So where does cricket come in all this? Where does it fit?
Cricket, fortunately, managed to unite people. The scars that history had given both sides were forgotten when 22 players entered the cricket field. Both countries battled it out with a bat and ball. Not swords.
The game of a bat and ball continues to do so. It unites people from both the countries. It brings out the best of humanity. It, kind of, repels violence.
Off-field and on-field banter is imminent. The rivalry is so intense that fans even shatter their TV sets when their team loses. At the end of it, normal life goes on, however, the hype around this particular fixture is insurmountable.
‘A Pakistan game is not only about that day. I remember, when we played Pakistan at Centurion, my friends had started talking about 10 months before that. It’s a different atmosphere altogether.’ said Sachin Tendulkar on India-Pakistan rivalry.
The rivalry brings the best out of cricketers. This fixture is one that can make and break careers.
Tendulkar showed his genius at Centurion with a knock of 98 off 75 balls in World Cup 2003. In his autobiography ‘Playing It My Way’, he wrote on that particular knock – ‘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.’
It must have been awfully hard being Sachin Tendulkar. A billion dependencies on one man. How difficult it must have been facing arch rivals Pakistan despite knowing the fact that the whole nation has stopped to watch him bat. It never bothered him though.
Rising up on the biggest occasions was something that Sachin Tendulkar learnt at a very young age.
During a pre-match interview, ex-Pakistani batsman Younus Khan said – “An occasion such as this can make you a hero or a zero, and an India-Pakistan match is all about the expectations.”
Javed Miandad’s last ball six off Chetan Sharma to win it for Pakistan in the Austral-Asia Cup final (1986).. Virender Sehwag’s six off Saqlain Mustaq while playing on 294.. Misbah’s mistimed shot off Jogender Sharma’s delivery in World Cup 2007 final.. Memories are countless and it hits nostalgia right in the middle.
Last time India faced Pakistan, it was Champions Trophy 2017 final and the Men In Green trumped the Men In Blue. India have faced Pakistan 12 times in Asia Cup’s history emerging victorious six times while Pakistan won five times. In UAE, India have a dismal record against Pakistan. They have battled it out 26 times out of which Pakistan won 19.
A game that lessened the wounds
Cricketers achieved what the politicians could not. The bromance off the field passed out a message to the masses.
Former India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was photographed holding Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed’s son a day before Champions League 2017. The romantics of the game could not stop drooling over it on social media.
This picture captures the soul of Ind-Pak matches. Enemies on the field. BFFs off the field. Dhoni with Sarfaraz's son, Abdullah. pic.twitter.com/O6p3CPpIUn
— Humayoun Ahmed Khan (@HumayounAK) June 17, 2017
When Pakistani fast bowler Kainat Imtiaz met India’s Jhulan Goswami, it was a dream come true for her.
Despite the altercations on the pitch, a number of cricketers from India and Pakistan became friends. Friendship that would last forever. A kind of bond that emanates mutual respect and love. You see Wasim Akram teaching a young Irfan Khan the tricks and trades of fast bowling. It’s something which is worth cherishing. The rivalry is worth cherishing. Every little bit of it.
In its truest sense, cricket united people. Unity which depleted as we unlocked newer levels in the game of civilization. Rich-Poor, Hindu-Muslim.. Everyone roots for the same cause. You just want to knock your arch rivals at any cost and that has been cricket’s biggest win.