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India vs Pakistan, once again

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India_Pakistan_CricketClashes between India and Pakistan, whether in cricket, hockey, kabaddi or any other sport, are closely fought and closely followed. Every clash render its marquee importance but when it comes to cricket, a cricket match can hold only so much weight. Mike Marqusee, an American writer, believed India-Pakistan cricket matches to be the fiercest rivalry in all of sport. The audience from both countries expect a thrilling encounter, albeit accept only victory as a result.

A cricket match between these two arch rivals entice more crowd compared to any other match. Indo-Pak series is often compared to Ashes. I believe that most people outside Oceania and the UK believe that Indo-Pak is a bigger rivalry than the Ashes. The Melbourne Cup might stop a nation. Be it any sport, India versus Pakistan in a global tournament stops a subcontinent.

Sport in both these two nations is inextricably linked to nationalism and cricket is religion. Which isn't a bad thing by itself, because for the most part it is a feel-good, positive force. It makes fans to appreciate the skills of the players and beauty of the game, the thrill of competition and of overcoming odds. But as every coin has two facets, being a sports fan is also as much about joy as it is about pain. It's part of the deal. For every winner, there must be a loser. In fact, victory would never feel so thrilling without the experience of loss.

 

Simon Barnes, the former chief sports editor of The Times once wrote, “All sports represent the collision of wills: people or teams who want the same thing and have to cause somebody pain in order to get it". It is easy, if you try to find a metaphor for warfare in this, but the beauty of sport is that people rarely die playing it. Sportsmen compete fiercely and proudly and in the pursuit of victory they exhaust themselves both mentally and physically. Once the game is finished, the vanquisher and the vanquished walk off the field, shaking each other's hand, knowing that this victory or loss is not final, the life is yet to be lived. They will compete again tomorrow and there will be another shot at redemption. That is the essence of sport.

No two cricket nations have so much in common, not even in Australia and New Zealand. There is the language, culture and cuisine. A shared passion for music and cinema. There's enough reason to believe that the people have matured and come a long way in trimming down the animosity, especially via Bollywood and numerous other cultural exchanges, perhaps reiterating time and again that the rivalry is only political. Indian and Pakistani cricketers share a natural kinship among them, perhaps enforced by empathy. They are friendlier with each other than they are with players from any other country.

India versus Pakistan inside stadium is different.

The India-Pakistan rivalry on a cricket field is unparalleled. It outvied any other sporting event. No doubt the hype around the game is a lot more among fans and the media than the players. An India-Pakistan encounter is more than a game of cricket. It brings the most populous region in the world to a standstill as the two cricket crazy nations are gripped by fervour.

When India versus Pak happens, the cricket suddenly morphs into a new form of life. On the day of every match, for people of both countries, along with eleven players from both sides, history, culture, war, and geopolitics also walk out to the middle. It is a completely unfair notion, especially for the players involved. The players are also the product of the environment they are grown in. They understand the importance of an India-Pakistan game and want to emerge victorious every time they play.

But they know, and spectators need to realise, that it might not be possible every single time. A game of cricket is not won by the team that is more emotionally charged but by the team which executes its plans properly and has the skill to support those plans. But the idea has stoked a rivalry for more than six decades now and ensures that reality and reason leave the stadium and millions of living rooms at the same time.

When India versus Pakistan will happen in CT 2017 on Sunday it is two teams of players who will be required to be the sober professionals because most of the subcontinent will by then have been drugged by jingoism and chauvinism. As eleven cricketers from both sides will exhibit their skills and temperament to one of the toughest test on Sunday inside the stadium, the spectators in both countries will also be on trial.

 

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