PCB should not be apologetic in revival of Indo-Pak contests
The chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Zaka Ashraf has received heaps of praise for his untiring efforts that have resulted in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) finally acceding to PCB’s requests to resume bilateral contests. The two countries are scheduled to meet each other in India for a series of limited-overs matches in December-January.
The achievement says a lot about the doggedness and perseverance of the chairman and shows that he has the ability to make things happen once he puts his mind to it. There is also no doubt about the fact that an Indo-Pak series brings unparalleled excitement on both sides of the border; nonetheless, there has to be a vision, a long-term objective associated with bringing the two sides together at this point in time.
What exactly is it that the PCB expects to achieve out of this initiative? It will surely bring smiles to a lot of faces, but for how long? Will it ensure that the BCCI will not sever the cricketing ties again if any untoward incident happens in future?
The chairman of the PCB must surely know better than an ordinary cricket fan who only thinks short-term and just wants to see India and Pakistan play against each other regardless of the context or the consequences.
Talking about context, an India-Pakistan series has often been touted as the fiercest rivalry in cricket — even bigger than the Ashes; however, it should be noted that Australia and England never come across each other in random limited-overs matches.
They would either play a proper series comprising of Test matches, ODIs and T20Is — that too after a gap of two years — or would come up against each other in traditional formats such as the World Cup, Champions Trophy, World T20 or the World Series Cup.
In this case, it would have been better if the two cricket boards had decided to schedule a proper series at a suitable time instead of agreeing to play a hastily-arranged series of ODIs and T20Is. Going forward, the two boards should agree to make such a series a regular feature of their international calendar which can take place after every 2-3 years irrespective of the political situation between them. Such a series can perhaps be called the ‘Peace Cup’, ‘Indus Trophy’, ‘Kashmir Championship’ or any other name deemed appropriate.
At a time when the ICC is trying desperately to eliminate unnecessary limited-overs contests and prevent player burnout, such a series might not be able to find favour with them.
In any matter of mutual concern, the most effective problem solving technique is to negotiate. The PCB chairman has done well in this regard and has managed to break the deadlock in Indo-Pak cricketing relations; however, by going out of its way to convince the BCCI and by pushing for the cause through diplomatic channels, he has just made the PCB look a tad apologetic for something that is not its fault. In doing so, it has given the impression that the Indians can somehow dictate its terms on matters of common interest.
It should have been kept in mind that it is not the first time that the cricketing ties between the two countries are suspended.
India and Pakistan did not play any cricket between 1962 and 1977 in the aftermath of political tensions that led to two bloody wars between the neighbours in 1965 and 1971. The 1999 conflict in Kargil once again forced the arch-rivals to cut cricketing ties with each other for a period of five years. This time around, the cricketing ties between the two countries were severed unilaterally by India and that too against Pakistan’s wishes.
In fact, India was scheduled to tour Pakistan in early 2009 for a return Test tour but the November 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai forced them to cancel that tour and suspend all two-way cricketing ties with Pakistan. Hence logically, the onus should have been on the BCCI to resume the bilateral relations, and not the PCB.
Even if the interest of the fans is at the heart of this initiative, it would have been better if he had convinced the BCCI to send the Indian team to Pakistan rather than agreeing to send his own team to India. After all, it is India’s turn to tour Pakistan and not the other way round. India’s security concerns are genuine and hence the series could have been scheduled in the UAE.
Despite all these abnormalities, the upcoming series promises to be a thrilling one.
Zaka would surely hope that it is the beginning of a healthy and prosperous cricketing relationship between the two countries.
But in order to ensure that, he will have to go a step further and look for a permanent solution which can serve to separate politics from sports and ensure that the normal business continues regardless of any unpleasant incident on either side.