India-Pakistan cricket talks: Cricket is not war

Last Updated: Tue, Oct 20, 2015 15:12 hrs

For decades now, the subcontinent has been the home of cricket. It is played in exclusive clubs and tiny gullies, across socioeconomic barriers.

It is played in corporation grounds, where it fosters kinship among boys of similar ages, irrespective of other differences.

It is played in countries that have adopted it and forgotten that it was bequeathed to them by the colonialists who savaged them for centuries.

And yet, the two countries which are arguably most passionate about cricket have never played a game against each other.

When India and Pakistan meet on the cricket field, one is not watching a sport. Despite the best efforts of the players – with the exception of the odd Neanderthal who feels the need to snarl and glare at the opposition – it feels like a theatre of war.

There are the maniacal fans, with ugly banners and uglier trolling on Twitter; there are the roars and boos on the field every time a run or a catch is taken; there are the 'security concerns' clouding every game.

And why wouldn’t there be, when pitches were regularly dug up by thugs before matches, back in the day when Pakistani cricketers were allowed to play in India?

Why wouldn’t there be, when a group of thugs can storm into a meeting between the chiefs of India’s and Pakistan’s cricket boards?

Why wouldn’t there be, when the same thugs demand that an umpire from the ICC’s elite panel should be sent back, and the ICC sees no option but to accede to it?

This month, a particular group of thugs – the Shiv Sena – have focused the excessive ire that is their USP on India’s ties with Pakistan. They believed blackening think tank member Sudheendra Kulkarni’s face with ink was a form of 'peaceful protest'.

They demanded that the Ghulam Ali concert be cancelled. They ensured that umpire Aleem Dar was sent back to Pakistan, having officiated in three of the five one-day matches between India and South Africa. They are probably rubbing their hands in glee after reading that former players and commentators for the series, Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar, have decided to leave over fears that they may be targeted next.

How, in this context, can twenty two men be expected to meet on the field and play their best game? How can they brush aside the fear that they or their relatives may be subjected to an outpouring of rage if they were to lose the match? How can they live in a vacuum when Muslim terrorists and Hindu terrorists threaten to blow them up before the match?

If all interaction were to be burdened by history, most discussion, sport, and engagement of any other kind would become impossible.

Yet, it is this history that looms over every India and Pakistan cricket match, this history that looms over every England and Argentina football match.

Without leaving it behind, how can we hope to hold normal conversation with people who are not from our backgrounds? Very few individuals, and certainly none who are alive now, had a say in which countries chose to colonise and enslave which others. We did not get to choose in which condition they left them behind.

If India can play cricket with England without spewing hatred for centuries of exploitation, why can’t India play cricket with Pakistan, or Pakistan play cricket with Bangladesh, without the resentment over Partition becoming the star of the game?

Why is it that a group of morons, who banded themselves together half a century ago to drive South Indians out of Bombay and have altered their mission and begun to drive North Indians out of Mumbai, can hold our reasoning to ransom, again and again?

Why do these morons still hold sway over not just the populace, but the state government?

There is little point in politicians reminiscing over their ancestors who were born in what is now the 'other country', but may have been home if not for history.

There is little point in those who cross the border for cultural exchanges marvelling that 'they are just like us', as if they expected to find people with five arms and horns on the head instead.

There is little point in speaking about the language and writes and cultural cornerstones we share.

For what does any of that count, when we can’t allow our countrymen to play our favourite sport without spilling blood?

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 Nandini is a journalist and humour writer based in Madras. She is the author of Hitched:
 The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage. She sells herself and the book