The Overrated Rivalry and Pakistanis in the IPL
Jay Dansinghani believes that India and Pakistan need to play each other more often for a rivalry to develop and that Pakistanis should be allowed to play the IPL
If you’d like to watch a close contest or a storied rivalry, don’t tune in to a game between India and Pakistan’s men’s teams.
Over the last few years, no bilateral contest in World Cups has produced more one-sided results. As pointed out in ESPN Cricinfo’s match preview, since the 2011 Men’s ODI World Cup, India’s margins of victory have been by eight wickets, seven wickets, 76 runs, six wickets and 89 runs respectively.
Last night, of course, Pakistan finally overcame the statistical anomaly that saw them lose 12 consecutive World Cup games against their South Asian neighbours. In many ways, a Pakistan win is exactly what this consistently underwhelming rivalry needed. However, the fact that it came by a margin of ten wickets was another reminder that there is no longer anything special about a fixture between these two nations.
Don’t get me wrong: It’s not as if there is something about these two teams facing off that guarantees a dull, eyesore of a contest. Indeed this streak of one-sided encounters is as much an anomaly as Pakistan’s 12-game losing streak.
Yet, the geopolitical context that surrounds this fixture doesn’t make it more or less likely that we’ll be treated to a close encounter compared to a game between South Africa and Sri Lanka.
Pakistan and India simply don’t play each other enough for any meaningful narrative to develop. Every time these two face off, there are new characters and new contests between batters and bowlers.
Since his debut in February 2018, Shaheen Shah Afridi has taken 21 wickets in the first over of a T20 innings. No other bowler has taken more than 13 in the same period. Indian supporters were genuinely concerned when he ran in to bowl to Rohit Sharma who has a reputation of struggling against left-arm seamers capable of bringing the ball back in. Their concerns were justified when Rohit was trapped plumb in front off his first ball.
How will India’s openers cope the next time they face Shaheen? Will they simply try to play him out? Will that even work?
Unless both Pakistan and India progress to the semi-finals, we will have to wait until next year’s World Cup for the answers to these questions. And by then, although the memory of a top-class opening burst will remain, the hype would have died down.
Pakistanis in the IPL: About time
Unless you were supporting Pakistan, the only saving grace from last night’s game was when Kohli embraced Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan for their chanceless and dominant partnership. The game was played in great spirits and this small gesture was a reminder that sport can be a vehicle for peace and harmony.
You get the feeling that the majority of Indian and Pakistani players, both past and present, want to play with and against each other more regularly. It is, therefore, a travesty that Pakistani cricketers are still not allowed to participate in the IPL.
Moreover, don’t believe any of the nonsense being spewed around by the lowest common denominators on social media platforms. The inclusion of Pakistani players in the IPL would improve the quality of the league. Afridi, for his part, would instigate a bidding war that would inspire its own Wikipedia page.
If the auction were held tomorrow, Rizwan and Babar, in spite of being anchor type batters, would be snapped up in a fit of recency bias. T20 globetrotter Haris Rauf would have multiple takers, especially after a death bowling master class that restricted India to a below-par total.
Sadly, when you consider that the son of the Indian Prime Minister’s right-hand man is the Secretary of the BCCI, you realize that cricket will always be an extension of the Indian government’s foreign policy. In spite of this, it’s hardly surprising that the BCCI puts their jingoism to bed when a World Cup fixture between the two South Asian neighbours has the potential to rake in tens of millions of dollars if not more.
It reminds me of a skit in a 2013 Aziz Ansari comedy special, where one of Aziz’s friends calls a locksmith after locking himself out of his apartment. Upon learning that his surname is Cheong, the locksmith refuses to serve him claiming that he hates Korean-Americans, and he believes they are “destroying” America.
Aziz wonders, however, how many Korean-Americans would have to call the locksmith before he could no longer afford to turn them away?
It’s a similar story for the powers that be that cannot fathom turning down large sums of money just to maintain the strength of their misguided convictions. If they genuinely believe that allowing a bilateral series between India and Pakistan is tantamount to supporting terrorism, then, at the very least, they should be consistent and oppose the same fixture at World Cups.
If they don’t do this, they’re implying that it’s wrong to support terrorism unless it makes you a lot of money.
And perhaps that is the worst thing about watching an India-Pakistan fixture.
It’s not just the one-sided contests.
It’s the fact that the fixture reeks of money, greed, and the putrid stench of politics.
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