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The complexities of playing with India

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    The complexities of playing with India

    The statistics may be in Pakistan's favour, but there is more at stake here than mere record books.


    The stories are folklore, the moments are legion. And they are different from the two sides of the border. In India, they haven't stopped talking about the four victories over Pakistan in World Cup matches, so far a perfect record.

    In a retirement interview, Indian seam bowler Javagal Srinath said the high point of his career had been beating Pakistan in the '92, '96, '99 and 2003 World Cups. Never mind that his own contributions weren't much, or that after one of those wins - in 1992 - Pakistan actually won the championship. It had all been just about beating Pakistan. The ferocious sentiment was apparently not limited to Srinath. After a stellar 98 against Pakistan in the 2003 World Cup pool match at Centurion, Sachin Tendulkar admitted that leading up to that game he hadn't slept properly for an entire year.

    The fervent expectations of hundreds of millions will do that to you. They will also transform the sport and make it more than just a game. Far more, in fact. When Tendulkar carved Shoaib Akhtar for six over point in that World Cup league game, for Pakistanis and Indians alike it carried all the symbolism of a mortar shell lobbed over the Line of Control, that tense separation between Indian and Pakistani parts of Kashmir.

    Sports rivalries are built through keenness of competition, but in this case the rivalry emerges from a demonstrated desire to spill each other's blood and guts. Not everyone may admit it, but no one in the subcontinent doubts that cricket between India and Pakistan is a proxy war.

    It is understandable for Indian players and fans to focus on the World Cup wins because, in fact, there has been little else to rejoice about. The view from Pakistan is rather different. It begins with a spirited, newly-minted Test side battling for national honour on its first tour to India in 1952-53 and recording victory in the 2nd Test at Lucknow. The series was lost 1-2 but Pakistan, back then the latest recipients of full ICC membership, had come away with their pound of flesh. Return visits in the 1950s and 60s were all drawn, and then cricketing ties were suspended for many years.

    In the autumn of 1978 India once again toured Pakistan but were overrun by rampant batting and astute captaincy. Zaheer Abbas was in his element and paid his respects at the temple of batsmanship by posting scores of 176, 96, 235*, 34* and 42 in glorious style, and hastening the retirement of India's celebrated quartet of spinners. Pakistan lost the return series in India 0-2 in 1979-80, but came close to winning at Delhi when they had taken six wickets by the close with India still 47 adrift.

    A couple of years later, in a 6-Test series in Pakistan, India were butchered 0-3 by reverse swing. Sarfraz Nawaz had been the inventor, but he couldn't bowl seriously fast and it was left to Imran Khan to take this art form to its greatest heights. He set the tone late one afternoon in the 2nd Test at Karachi when he took five for three in the space of 25 balls during which he was, for all purposes, unplayable. Those of us who used to wonder what an off-break turning at 95mph would look like, finally got to see it for real as Imran took the first of those wickets and shattered the fortress that used to exist between Sunil Gavaskar's bat and pad. He ended up taking 40 wickets in that series at an astonishing 13.95.

    After another drawn series came Pakistan's 5-Test, 1986-87 trip to India, culminating in that firecracker of a match at Bangalore and bringing Pakistan its first series win on Indian soil. On a raging, merciless turner, Sunil Gavaskar staved off the spinners like Odysseus battling Scylla and Charybdis, but Iqbal Qasim and Tauseef Ahmed had found their mark and eventually kept India short by 16 runs. Pakistan's next trip to India - in 1998-99 - did not produce a series win but was in some ways even more memorable. On a backdrop of anti-Pakistan frenzy fuelled by Hindutva fervour, Javed Miandad and Wasim Akram tag-teamed as coach-captain and snatched unlikely victories at Chennai and Kolkata.

    Admittedly, although Pakistan has clearly been the dominant side over the years, a lot has happened since the last time the two countries contested a Test match. In Pakistan, we have suffered a period in which the captaincy and the batting line-up (not to mention the administrative hierarchy) have been unusually brittle. We've won some and lost some, but there is a sense that, if anything, our cricketing self-confidence has been somewhat eroded.

    There can be little argument, though, that India now has more at stake than Pakistan does. Like the country itself, India's cricketers are enjoying a surging self-confidence in their superpower ambitions, but a cricket loss to Pakistan remains their Achilles Heel. Whether true or not, it is popularly believed in Pakistan that India's refusal to engage on the field - ostensibly the result of a reactionary foreign policy - was closely tied to the risk of losing. That they have finally agreed to play in Pakistan can only mean, according to the popular wisdom, that they are certain of winning, or at least of not losing.

    For all their recent heroics in Australia (and we in Pakistan appreciated the bloodied Aussie nose as much as anyone), India cannot shake the label of being under-performers on tour. Their overseas record looks especially stark when, as is inevitable, it is compared with Pakistan's. India's Test winning percentage on tour is only 19.19 (including five series wins in 72 years) while Pakistan's is 43.01 (including 14 overseas series wins in 52 years). In the last few seasons, Pakistan has notched Test series wins in New Zealand, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka, but India haven't won a series on tour for 10 years and haven't won outside the subcontinent for 17 years. And while Pakistan has recorded four Test wins in India, the Indians are still looking to win a Test in Pakistan after twenty attempts.

    It is interesting that Muslims have always been a minority in the subcontinent but they have consistently outperformed the majority at cricket. Pakistan's superior record compared to India's is well-known, but cricket's subcontinental balance of power had not been much different before 1947. From 1912 through 1946, India's largest ethno-religious groups (Hindus, Muslims, Parsees, Sikhs, Europeans) used to compete in quadrangular or pentangular first-class tournaments in Bombay and Lahore. Naturally enough, the most keenly followed finals used to be the ones between Hindus and Muslims. In the Bombay Pentangular, Hindus and Muslims met eight times in the final, with the Muslims winning five, losing two and drawing one. :bhangra: In the Lahore tournament, Hindus and Muslims met four times, and split the tally 2-2.

    Modern Indian Test sides tend to have no more than one or two Muslim players at a time, but prior to 1947 the Indian team usually included four Muslim players. On one occasion (3rd Test against England at the Oval in 1936) the Indian team included as many as six Muslim players, including Mushtaq Ali, Dilawar Hussain, Wazir Ali, Jahangir Khan, Baqa Jilani and Mohammed Nissar. All these observations, combined with India's traditional difficulties producing a strike bowler of truly frightening pace, have been the basis for popular speculations about Pakistan's supposedly overflowing fountains of natural cricket talent.

    But history is only good for the record books, and every Test match is a fresh contest. In the drawing rooms of Lahore and Karachi, armchair theorizing has it that this time around India are in the best position ever to win in Pakistan. All of a sudden they have three energetic seamers capable of slanting the ball across, which will surely come in handy against a batting side that loves to chase the rising ball and cannot resist trying its luck by angling the bat in the corridor of uncertainty. And the Indian batting, well lets not even go there.

    The momentum may be with India, but a few things will need to be overcome. The most obvious is a pair of men called Shoaib and Sami, who can bowl at 150km-per-hour pretty much whenever they feel like it. Of course, top-level cricket is ultimately a mental game and the real hurdles will be in the mind. With all that is at stake, the pressure for India not to lose is, quite simply, suffocating. Pakistanis, on the other hand, have grudgingly accepted India's soaring national stature and, left with little other choice, they have also come to terms with the demons of unpredictability that routinely haunt their own team. While a loss to India will hurt, a loss to Pakistan will almost certainly hurt India more.

    The Indians also have Javed Miandad to contend with. The Pakistani coach's mastery of tactics evokes a healthy respect, but what he did to India evokes fear. Back in 1986 in a One-Day tournament final at Sharjah, he hit a last-ball six that, to quote India Today, "cut across the Indian ego like a knife-slash." India had come into that game riding a crest of championship victories - first the 1983 World Cup and then the World Championship of Cricket in Australia in 1984-85. The previous season in Sharjah, they had also humiliated Pakistan by defending a total of 125. Miandad's immortal six put an end to all that. Today this is another crop of cricketers, but Miandad's Sharjah coup is the kind of tale that gets passed down generations. There is no telling how his coaching presence will prey on the tourists' minds.

    #2
    In the years that India has been pulling itself up through passionate patriotism, in Pakistan we have been learning the value of pragmatism. This time it is about more than just cricket. More than anything else, we want peace with India. With that in mind, the best outcome for this series would probably be a drawn contest from which both teams can take away moments of glory. In cricketing context, the best outcome is for the better team to win, but this time around no one is fooling themselves that cricket is only a game, because it just isn't. Among other things, it is now a means of exorcising the demons of hate from two neighbouring countries whose enmity has threatened to run amok. If a sport can be the vehicle of delivering lasting peace to hundreds of millions, what a sport it must be. But then, we already knew that.


    http://www.dawn.com/weekly/dmag/dmag15.htm

    -------------

    They had a very nice article about Imran Khan last week. I forgot to post it!

    Comment


      #3
      "cut across the Indian ego like a knife-slash."
      ~*~Pakistan hamari jaan, sabse pehley Pakistan~*~

      Comment


        #4
        Originally posted by Nancy Drew:
        "cut across the Indian ego like a knife-slash."

        Comment


          #5
          With all respect to the game of Cricket and its one of the best playing nation, India.

          still.......

          THUND PAI GAI DIL WICH........
          charah saazon se alag hai mayar mera kay main
          zakham khaaonga tou kuch aur nikhar jaaonga

          Comment


            #6
            Provisional dates

            March

            11-15, 1st Test, Lahore
            19-23, 2nd Test, Peshawar
            27-31 3rd Test, Karachi

            April

            3, 1st ODI, Karachi
            7, 2nd ODI Faisalabad
            9, 3rd ODI, Lahore
            11, 4th ODI, Lahore
            14, 5th ODI, Rawalpindi.

            WAIT, PRAY AND SEE INSHALLAH PAKISTAN WILL WIN

            Comment


              #7
              inshAllah

              Comment


                #8
                I didn't like such a discouraging article by this Indian columnist. Cricket b/w India and Pakistan is about excitment and fun at its peak. Not a non-political solution to the problems b/w two countries.

                BBC Urdu article by Rohit Burj

                I couldn't find the English version of the article on their site.
                charah saazon se alag hai mayar mera kay main
                zakham khaaonga tou kuch aur nikhar jaaonga

                Comment


                  #9
                  Re: The complexities of playing with India

                  Originally posted by ChthonicPowers:
                  The Indians also have Javed Miandad to contend with. The Pakistani coach's mastery of tactics evokes a healthy respect, but what he did to India evokes fear. Back in 1986 in a One-Day tournament final at Sharjah, he hit a last-ball six that, to quote India Today, "cut across the Indian ego like a knife-slash." India had come into that game riding a crest of championship victories - first the 1983 World Cup and then the World Championship of Cricket in Australia in 1984-85. The previous season in Sharjah, they had also humiliated Pakistan by defending a total of 125. Miandad's immortal six put an end to all that. Today this is another crop of cricketers, but Miandad's Sharjah coup is the kind of tale that gets passed down generations. There is no telling how his coaching presence will prey on the tourists' minds.
                  [thumb=D]jm.JPG[/thumb]

                  *Memories Memories*

                  Comment


                    #10
                    ^ So this is what keeps india away from Pak. hmmm, A sixer in one day keeps India away!

                    Comment

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