It appears somewhat appropriate that the first chapter of Indo-Pak cricket’s new story picks up from where the last chapter of the old one left off. Since Younis Khan’s men clung on to claim a fifth-day draw in Bangalore five years ago, India and Pakistan have not played a bilateral series.
It is the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium then, rather fittingly, that the two countries will return to on Wednesday, to renew direct cricketing engagement. India and Pakistan may have clashed in ICC events, but have yet to meet of mutual accord since the Mumbai attacks of 2008.
The Pakistan contingent has been warm to a fault in its interactions with the press this week. While the team manager Naveed Akram Cheema spoke of coming to India to win hearts, the skipper, Mohammad Hafeez, applauded the authorities on both sides for restoring ties.
“It’s wonderful that two great cricketing nations are playing each other again,” he said. “It’s a fresh, new journey. I’m sure people on both sides appreciate this. Pakistan and India should play each other often because it’s not just their own fans but the whole world that has missed it,” he said.
If the bilingual nature of all press conferences (English and Urdu) has been one illustration of (obvious) cultural commonality, the friendly conversation among both sets of players on the eve of the match was another. It is hard to imagine Indian players chatting in the same warm fashion with an Australian side.
In the backdrop to all this has lurked a silent understanding of the potential for trouble: in the army of policemen that guards the stadium (its presence extending even to the pitch as players train), the safety film that is plastered all over the windows of the team buses, and the sniffer dogs that explore the conference room. But once the first Airtel T20 begins on Christmas evening, it is only the cricket, it is hoped, that will matter.