Indo-Pak matches were special occasions, with both teams vying to outdo each other, backed by a legion of boisterous fans
The news that India-Pakistan bilateral cricket is all set to resume in December has been greeted with joy on both sides of the sub-continent.
The South Asian arch-rivals had stopped playing each other in a bilateral series owing to the diplomatic tension that followed the 26/11 attack in Mumbai in 2008. India-Pakistan matches usually transcended sports and were special occasions, with both teams vying to outdo each other, backed by a legion of boisterous fans.
“Personally I am quite happy and so are the millions of fans in Pakistan and I am sure the same is with the Indian fans as well,” said Zaka Ashraf, chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board. Board of Control for Cricket in India has expressed cautious optimism.
However, the voice against this move has come from Sunil Gavaskar. “As a Mumbaikar, I am not in favour of it now unless the ground situation improves further,” he said. But other former stars such as Kapil Dev, Sanjay Manjrekar and Arun Lal have welcomed the move. Indian skipper M.S. Dhoni put the issue in the right perspective, saying, “We are professionals and if we have to play Pakistan, I welcome it.”
Pakistani skipper Misbah-Ul-Haq said, “There is no better contest than an India-Pak match,” while Shahid Afridi dubbed the series “bigger than the Ashes”.
When India was elevated as the number one test team in 2009-10, one wondered whether it was fair as it had not played a proper series against its neighbour since November 2007. Sure India played Pakistan a year ago at Mohali, but then it was a World Cup semi-final and not a bilateral game. The match generated feverish excitement, with fans pouring across the border and the audience including the Prime Ministers of both the countries besides film stars.
One vividly remembers the heartbreaking Test series loss to Imran Khan’s men at M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore in 1987 on a treacherous pitch, with India going down by 16 runs and Sunil Gavaskar making his final bow for India with a gallant 96. “It’s a magnificent win but my heart goes out to Gavaskar,” said Imran then.
And who can ever forget the 1996 World Cup quarterfinal against Pakistan here? A brilliant win was fashioned by Ajay Jadeja’s whirlwind knock and the city came alive that night. There was a fleet of city buses waiting outside the stadium ready to ferry fans home but nobody seemed to be in a mood to leave!