Don't hold your breath, India and Pakistan are not playing anytime soon

Published September 10, 2015
An entire generation of fans on both sides of the border will never get a chance to experience the magic of an India-Pakistan cricket series.
An entire generation of fans on both sides of the border will never get a chance to experience the magic of an India-Pakistan cricket series.

The breakdown of the National Security Advisor-level talks between India and Pakistan had another victim – a scheduled India-Pakistan series in December, which would have been the first full series between the two teams in more than seven years .

For cricket fans on both sides of the border, the news that the Board of Control for Cricket in India and the Pakistan Cricket Board had signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2014, committing to resuming bilateral cricketing relations, was greeted with cautious cynicism.

It sounded great on paper – which cricket fan would not want to see India take on Pakistan? But with the agreement announced on May 14, 2014, and a Bharatiya Janata Party government coming to power two days later, it really seemed too good to be true.

Cricket and politics

The BCCI, for its part, has refused to confirm whether the first scheduled series in December will go ahead, insisting that it needs to get permission from the government. Read between the lines, though, and it is quite clear where the BCCI stands.

The organisation's secretary and Bharatiya Janata Party MP Anurag Thakur stated in July, “On one hand there is a rise in terrorist activity from Pakistan, on the other you can’t expect to play cricket series with Pakistan.”

In case anyone doubted his seriousness, Thakur decided to make things even more clear by tweeting the following in August:

Well so much for not mixing sport and politics.

Counting itself among the richest sporting bodies in the world, the BCCI can well afford to flex its muscles, simply because there is not much anyone else can do.

A tour by an Indian cricket team is a massive money-spinner for any cricket board and so the BCCI finds itself in the enviable position of picking and choosing the countries it will tour. Yet in many ways, it is a bit of a betrayal by the BCCI.

Back in February 2014, when the BCCI (along with Cricket Australia and the England and Wales Cricket Board) completely re-hauled the International Cricket Council to effectively give itself greater control over the administration of the game, it received support from the Pakistan Cricket Board on the condition that Pakistan would be rewarded with more matches against India.

Three months later, the Pakistan Cricket Board announced that the BCCI had agreed to play six bilateral series between 2015 and 2023.

Flexing its muscles

The BCCI though seems to have gone back on its promise and predictably, the Pakistan Cricket Board is miffed. Unfortunately, the BCCI’s clout in world cricket means that the Pakistan Cricket Board has to walk an uneasy tightrope, for being seen as being too antagonistic to the BCCI could lead to far worse ramifications for Pakistani cricket.

Caught between a rock and a hard place, Pakistan cricket chief Shahryar Khan is a harried man.

At first he sought to gently remind India about their commitments, shooting off a letter to BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya, taking the moral high ground.

“Politics is vulnerable to highs and lows and the sport of cricket should be kept away from it," he wrote.

"Cricket is a tool to formulate peace between the countries."

That didn’t go down too well in Pakistan, with many infuriated that Khan was “begging” India to play Pakistan. The strongest criticism came from former Pakistani great Javed Miandad who lambasted the Pakistan Cricket Board for “running after the BCCI”.

Mindful of the criticism, Khan changed tone and was a little more defiant in his next press statement, doggedly pointing out that Pakistani cricket could survive, even without playing against India.

As it stands now, any chances of the series going ahead looks bleak.

There is no chance that the BJP government would even consider any kind of cricketing ties with Pakistan. For a party that has built its appeal on bashing Pakistan, any effort at rekindling cricketing ties would be seen as an act of cowardice by its supporters – a selling out of sorts to the “old enemy”.

For the BCCI, it works out very conveniently. As the richest cricket board in the world, the BCCI can pick and choose between its many suitors, knowing fully well that Pakistan needs the BCCI far more than India needs it.

The Pakistan Cricket Board will probably be able to get out of this by arranging a series with another nation while the BCCI will have no problem filling up the gap in the international cricketing calendar.

Ultimately, it will be cricket that loses out. The way it stands, an entire generation of fans on both sides of the border will never get a chance to experience the magic of an India-Pakistan cricket series.

This post originally appeared on Scroll.in and has been reproduced with permission.

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