In 2009, during the Sri Lankan tour to Pakistan, the bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team to the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore was fired at by the militants. It left six Sri Lankan players injured and killed six policemen and two civilians. It was a sad day for Pakistan cricket, as all the cricket playing nations did not want to risk sending their teams to the country due to security concerns.
In a scathing attack on the serious security lapse, the then Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram said "such incidents could make Pakistan a failed state, and that one was not sure as to who was in control of the country."
We in India always took pride in the fact that, unlike Pakistan, we enjoyed a peaceful environment. However, a series of incidents of growing intolerance, especially against the Pakistani nationals, has become a matter of grave concern. Such incidents have not only tarnished India's image both in India and abroad, but has come at a time when India is making a strong pitch for UNSC membership.
First, we saw Ghulam Ali's concert being abruptly cancelled; this was followed by blackening of the face of Sudheendra Kulkarni for organizing the book launch of the former foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, then came the unsavory incident of activists barging into the office of India's cricket board BCCI, just before Shashank Manohar was to meet with his Pakistani counterpart Shahryar Khan. In all the three cases, the activists belonged to a right wing group. One is at a loss to fathom the reasons for the BCCI president arranging for the meeting in Mumbai.
In an interview given to the electronic and print media, Shahriyar bemoaned the fact that no official from BCCI had contacted him regarding the sudden cancellation of the meeting. Shahriyar Khan was in India on invitation from the BCCI president, regarding resumption of cricketing ties with India and to finalize the first of the series which was to be played in the UAE in December. It is to the credit of Shahriyar Khan, that in spite of criticism from several quarters in his country, not to pander to BCCI, he kept visiting India to revive the ties.
Indian and Pakistan players enjoy a lot of goodwill in both the countries. In 1999, in an evenly fought test match at MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk, with the momentum shifting from session to session, India was bundled out for 258, while chasing 271 runs. The entire crowd at Chepauk applauded Pakistan for being better than India on that day and also for their courageous display, a scene never witnessed before in India, especially in a match involving Pakistan! The visiting side returned the honour with a victory lap.
Who can forget the legendary Saeed Anwar's glorious innings of 194 against India in a one day match in Chennai in 2007? It was a class act which won plaudits from all cricket lovers who had come to see the match in Chennai. Similarly, during the India's tour to Pakistan, the spectators loudly cheered for India, when they roundly beat Pakistan in Lahore. We read in the papers that many of the Pakistani shop owners refused to take money from the Indians. And who can forget the chant "Balaji jara dheer chalna..." making the nondescript Indian pacer a hero in Pakistan. It was an unbelievable scene when over 2000 Indian spectators waved Indian flags at the Gaddafi Stadium.
As Rameez Raja, the then CEO of the PCB aptly put it, "This is what people-to-people contact is supposed to be. It wouldn't have made sense to separate people when they speak the same language." As Indians swapped shirts with Pakistanis and Pakistanis stuck the Indian flag into their hats, blue, green, saffron and white was no longer angry metaphors, just different shades of light.
At a time when the Indo-Pak relation is at its nadir, the Indo-Pakistan cricket ties would definitely improve the ties between the two cricket crazy nations or create a an enabling situation which set a platform for both the governments to engage in a dialogue. The sport lovers from both the countries should appeal to ndia and Pakistan not to mix sports with politics, as culture and sports are great levelers, when it comes to improving the ties between the two countries. Just as Bollywood movies are a big hit in Pakistan, the Pakistan TV serials like Humsafar, Maat, Kitni Girhain Baaki Hain has taken India by storm.
Both Modi and Nawaz should learn from the former Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who showed statesmanship by offering a 'hand of friendship' to Pakistan by agreeing to revive the cricketing ties, despite the unfortunate Kargil incident. India's tour to Pakistan was rightly called a "friendship series." Pakistan, on its part, should abandon its paranoid approach and get over its false equivalence while dealing with India.
We hope better sense prevails in both the countries and we get to see a good contest between the two great sides.