India versus Pakistan: Rivalries, sub-plots and cricket…

The moment people hear about an India-Pakistan cricket match, blood starts gushing through their veins. Cricket freaks across the globe have their hearts pounding in their chests. Work gets sidelined, with emails piling on at a rate of knots in mailboxes, and all of us are there, with our eyes glued to the TV screens, desperately waiting for a miracle to occur out of nowhere. Every time Virat hits the ball all the way to the fence, the entire nation erupts in jubilation. The entire nation is there, hopping and jumping in excitement. There’s anticipation wherever you look.

The two countries have a lot in common, right from food to culture to history. Our erstwhile colonial masters spun a web that left everyone fuming. Today, Political tensions between the two neighbours have been fluctuating quite a bit. Almost every second day, skirmishes along the Line Of Control (LOC) engulf the news channels. The Kashmir issue has been hanging there, staring its way into oblivion since ages. The relationship between the two nations has been far more complicated and complex than a trigonometric equation.

Encounters between two of the biggest arch-rivals have excited me ever since I was a child. Cricket was something that brought all of us together, under one umbrella. I remember when Pakistan toured India in 2007. A total of five One-Day International (ODI) matches followed by three Test matches were played. The Indians managed to overpower their opponents in both the formats. Saurav Ganguly scored an emphatic double century at the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore in the third test match of the series. It was a drawn game, and the Indians ended up clinching the series 1-0 courtesy of a fine victory at Delhi in the first test.

Yuvraj Singh’s exploits with the willow in the limited overs format allowed hosts to cruise to a comfortable series victory (3-2) in the ODIs as well. Saurav Ganguly had piled on more than 500 runs in the test series and was named the player of the series. Yuvraj Singh was named the Player of the Series in the ODIs. The Indians may have won both the series, but peace and harmony remained the biggest of winners.

Back in the 1970’s, when India played against Pakistan, it felt like ‘war’ (that is what my father called it). If India lost a game against Pakistan in those days, people would go into a state of mourning. Many felt Pakistanis were stronger (because they ate meat). Today, the Indian population is one of the largest consumers of fish and mutton. Today, the rivalry between the two nations has matured by leaps and bounds. Today, an encounter between India and Pakistan on the cricket field is no longer considered a ‘war’. It’s just a game, a really important one at that, but just a game.

June 4, 2017, would play a witness to another epic battle between the two arch-rivals, this time in Edgbaston. I’ve seen countless matches between India and Pakistan over the years, but have rarely seen one where one team starts as an overwhelming favourite as the other. The Indians would go into this match as clear favourites.

An India-Pakistan encounter has always had a familiar narrative. It has been the battle to watch out for. It’s always been a battle between India’s batsmen and the Pakistani pace battery. The Pakistanis have always come out all guns blazing with a bowling attack that has been superior. On the contrary, the Indian batting order has always enjoyed an enormous reputation over the years. This time around, it might just be a bit different. For the first time ever, the Indians seem to be going into a match with a bowling line-up that might just be superior to Pakistan’s.

When we look at the Indian pace attack, there’s Bumrah, there’s Umesh who has now been spearheading the attack with the ball in hand. There’s Shami who can leave the opposition in tatters if he bowls consistently. The spinners still remain India’s trump card.Now, let us look at the Pakistani batting order. You look at their team, there’s Shehzad, there’s Babar Azam, there’s Sarfaraz, and there’s Shoaib Malik, and you’d perhaps say: ‘they’re not quite up there’, but surprisingly, the Pakistanis have always had this habit of punching well above their weight.

Now, let us look at the Pakistani batting order. You look at their team, there’s Shehzad, there’s Babar Azam, there’s Sarfaraz, and there’s Shoaib Malik, and you’d perhaps say: ‘they’re not quite up there’, but surprisingly, the Pakistanis have always had this habit of punching well above their weight.

Out of the many contests and sub-plots, the encounter would offer, one would certainly have me on the edge of my seat thinking wow, this is something to look forward to. It would be Mohammad Amir vs. Virat Kohli.

So, with the battle lines already being drawn, with the soldiers all in readiness to march in and make a statement, it’d boil down to one thing i.e. who plays better cricket. May the best team win….

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