Can Pakistan vs India ever be just a match?
Is it Pakistan versus India? Or, is it India versus Pakistan? While a trivial issue to the casual observer, this grammatical chess-match encapsulates the depth of the cricketing rivalry between the two neighbours. As both sides jostle to gain any advantage over one another, not even the English language is spared.
Simply put, there is no match like a Pakistan-India (or, India-Pakistan) match; a match unrivalled in its ability to harness the imagination, fervour and passion of over a billion people. From Islamabad to New Delhi, Mumbai to Karachi, Beijing to London and New York to Toronto, Pakistanis and Indians unite to watch a match between bat and ball. No pressure, right?
For Pakistanis and Indians alike, cricket is a rite of passage. Embedded in the hearts and minds of an entire subcontinent, cricket fuses the old with the young, the rich with the poor and the city-dwellers with those who live in rural areas. Cricket serves as a microcosm of the larger, more important state of affairs, representing the political and socio-economic climates of both countries.
Naturally, when Pakistan and India meet on a cricket ground, it’s a sparring match for two countries searching for relevancy and respect on the global stage. In a quasi-economic-cricketing backdrop, India, a burgeoning economy with superpower ambitions, has the money, power and resources to best any Pakistan team. Pakistan, on the other hand, an emerging market with coveted natural resources and a battle-hardened population, has the determination, grit and self-belief to withstand any Indian batting assault. Does it get any better than this?
Let’s also spare a thought for the poor souls who automatically become proxies in this captivating drama: the players.
For a player, a Pakistan-India contest represents an opportunity unlike any other in international sport, to become a legend, forever immortalised in his or her nation’s psyche. For example, for all his records and international success, we will always remember Javed Miandad for his last-ball six against India in the 1986 AustralAsia Cup Final.
Likewise, how can we ever forget Sachin Tendulkar’s famous upper-cut against Shoaib Akhtar in the 2003 World Cup? However, this contest is not a charity. If a player errs in a Pakistan-India contest, forgiveness is as hard to find as a seat in an Indo-Pak train car.
Even though he became Pakistan’s leading Test captain, surpassing immortals such as Imran Khan and Inzamamul Haq and defeated the mighty Australian and English teams, Misbah, to this day, is relentlessly chastised for that fatal scoop against India in the 2007 International Cricket Council (ICC) World T20 final. “Live by the sword, die by the sword” takes on a whole new meaning.
Pakistan and India locked horns at the famed Eden Gardens in Kolkata on March 19th, a charged-up and determined Pakistan tried to seek its first-ever win over India in a World Cup. Pakistan not only looked to correct history, but also looked towards giving its devout fans a chance to finally one-up Indian fans on social media. India, on the other hand, remained methodical as ever and capitalised on the formulaic and regimented approach that has been the cornerstone of its global domination over the past five years.
Unfortunately, Pakistan lost against India yet again and left millions of fans dejected. India remains undefeated by Pakistan, moreover the stats paint a grim picture; 0-11 against its arch-rivals in World Cup matches.
Whether our loss was the result of a weak power play, Sharjeel Khan bouncing on the ball rather than stopping it — or of Virat Kohli sticking it out till the end, it would be unfair to say our team didn’t try. They did.
Shouldering the burden of a history filled with mistrust and violence while simultaneously embracing the unmatched, brotherly love for samosas and dramas, Saturday’s match was not just another match. It was the match.
Nothing would be better than these two rivals battling it out again, this time in the World T20 final, just like they did in 2007, but this time around, I’m hoping Pakistan takes the cup.