India Vs Pakistan: Let The Ego World Cup Begin

India Vs Pakistan: Let The Ego World Cup Begin
Imagine a cricket match between India and Pakistan… two captains come onto the pitch, call the coin toss and get the game going. The crowd cheers and enjoys the festivities. The contest is played in a relaxed atmosphere without political hype and pressure affecting the players' performance or enraging spectators.

Cricket (or any other sport for that matter) played between India and Pakistan has become a heady cocktail of politics and cricket. It's bitter and sweet.

"I think it is impossible to separate cricket from politics, especially in the India-Pak context. The politics are so overwhelming between the two countries that cricket can't remain immune," says veteran Indian journalist Rajdeep Sardesai.

A Pakistan-India contest, purely for cricket, is now a pipe dream for serious cricket enthusiasts. And that is ok. The expected visit of the Pakistan team to India to play the One-Day International (ODI) Cricket World Cup 2023 will keep their dreams alive – for the upcoming tournament's schedule is out, and the good news is Pakistan has agreed to play nine matches on Indian soil.

The two sides met last at the ICC World Cup tournament in Manchester in 2019 – which India won by 89 runs. Pakistan's last visit to India was seven years ago, in 2016, for the men's T20 World Cup.

The schedule released by the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on June 27 shows that Pakistan will play against India in Ahmedabad on October 15, Australia in Bengaluru on October 20, Afghanistan in Chennai on October 23 and South Africa again in Chennai on October 27.

After playing these four matches, the Pakistan team will head to Kolkata to play against Bangladesh on October 31, and travel back to Bengaluru to play against New Zealand on November 4, followed by the final league match against England in Kolkata on November 12.

Besides the league matches, Pakistan will play two warm-up games between September 29 and October 3.

That's a total of nine matches at five venues.

The number of matches to be played in India could increase if Pakistan advances to the semifinals and potentially the final.

The schedule was announced after a delay – and wrangling: The Asian Cricket Council (ACC) accepted Pakistan's hybrid proposal for staging the Asia Cup after India refused to tour Pakistan in what was supposed to be an Asia Cup 2023 that was due to be hosted by both countries. India cited strained relations between the two South Asian countries as the reason for not wanting to visit Pakistan. But India did agree to reschedule Pakistan's matches to venues other than Mumbai over security concerns.

Apparently, this stance of both the BCCI and the PCB has not gone down well with former cricketer Wasim Akram, who thinks Pakistani players would have no issue with where they play.

"Pakistan will play wherever they are assigned to play. There is this unnecessary narrative of 'We don't play in Ahmedabad'. In reality, the players do not care about the schedule."

Keeping politics out of cricket in South Asia is indeed a worthy concept. But it has mostly been futile because the relations between the two states have increasingly become polarised.

The loud and opinionated politicians and media commentators intensify the disorder. They spew hate and outrage. A majority of people believe them.

A game of leisure and gentlemanly cordiality has turned into a clash of titans. For instance, as a cricket enthusiast, Sardesai said he would love to watch "a battle between a Kohli and a Shaheen Shah Afridi or a Babar Azam and a Mohammed Shami – but the truth is, I am being a cricket romantic here… reality is, India-Pakistan is a platform for competitive jingoism."

He is looking forward to the India vs Pakistan match on October 15 – "In fact, I have never seen India lose against Pakistan when I have gone to the stadium. I am a bit of a lucky charm. I look forward to watching Babar bat against our team. He is a terrific player, and I want to see how he handles the pressure of an Indian crowd. I am also a fan of Shubman Gill, who I think is the best young player in the world. Shubman vs Pakistan should be quite a contest."

He hopes this isn't a one-off, "but we will soon have an India-Pakistan bilateral test series, if not in each other's countries where it should be ideally held, then in England, which is a great place to watch the game."
Well, it's time to enjoy the cricket season ahead…

Cricket World Cup, Fixtures, Schedule, Pakistan, India, Australia, South Africa, England, New ZealandCricket World Cup, Fixtures, Schedule, Pakistan, India, Australia, South Africa, England, New Zealand

Cricket World Cup, Fixtures, Schedule, Pakistan, India, Australia, South Africa, England, New Zealand


The writer is Consulting Editor at The Friday Times