Modi and Nawaz Sharif need to stop undermining cricket for political gains

Published: October 29, 2015
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Indian and Pakistani players enjoy a lot of goodwill in both the countries. PHOTO: REUTERS

During the Sri Lankan tour to Pakistan in 2009, the bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team to the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore was fired upon by militants, injuring six Sri Lankan players and killing six policemen and two civilians. It was a sad day for Pakistan cricket as no country was willing to send its team to Pakistan after this unfortunate incident. 

In a scathing attack on the serious security lapse, the then Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram said,

“Such incidents could make Pakistan a failed state, and that one was not sure as to who was in control of the country.”

We, in India, always took pride that unlike Pakistan, sports and cultural events with Pakistan were kept away from politics. However, the recent events involving Pakistani nationals have raised its ugly hydra head, raising serious questions about the growing intolerance in the society.

First, we saw Ghulam Ali’s concert being abruptly cancelled due to threat of disruption by the activists belonging to a fundamental group. This was followed by blackening of the face of Sudheendra Kulkarni for organising the book launch of the former Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri and thirdly, few activists belonging to Shiv Sena, a coalition partner of the Maharashtra government, broke into the office of India’s cricket Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), just before Shashank Manohar was to meet with his Pakistani counterpart Shahryar Khan.

Unlike the security cover provided to Kasuri during his book launch, Manohar was left to fend for himself. Although one would be right in criticising the inept handling of the state government in not securing the area, but one is at a loss to fathom the reasons for the BCCI president arranging the meeting in Mumbai, especially in the wake of several unsavoury incidents involving the Pakistani nationals.

In an interview given to the electronic and print media, Shahryar Khan bemoaned the fact that no official from BCCI had contacted him regarding the sudden cancellation of the meeting. Khan was in India at the invitation of the BCCI president regarding resumption of cricketing ties with India and to finalise the first of the series which was to be played in the UAE in December. It is to the credit of Khan that in spite of criticism from his constituency, he kept visiting India to revive the ties.

Indian and Pakistani players enjoy a lot of goodwill in both the countries. In 1999, in an evenly fought Test match at MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk, with the momentum shifting from session to session, India was bundled out for 258, while chasing 271 runs. The entire crowd at Chepauk applauded Pakistan for being better than India and for their courageous display — a scene never witnessed before in India, especially in a match involving Pakistan. The visiting side returned the honour with a victory lap.

Photo: Reuters

Who can forget the legendary and glorious innings by Saeed Anwar, when he scored 194 runs against India in an ODI match in Chennai in 1997. It was a class act which won plaudits from all cricket lovers who had come to see the match in Chennai. Similarly, during India’s tour to Pakistan, the spectators cheered loudly for India when they roundly beat Pakistan in Lahore. Newspapers had stories regarding the many Pakistani shop owners who refused to take money from Indians.

Who can forget the unforgettable chant, “Balaji zara dheere chalna” (Balaji, move a bit slower), making the nondescript Indian pacer a hero in Pakistan. It was an unbelievable scene when over 2,000 Indian spectators waved Indian flags at the Gaddafi Stadium.

We witnessed how people-to-people contact can garner bonhomie and goodwill between the two countries.  As Ramiz Raja, the then CEO of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) aptly put it,

“This is what people-to-people contact is supposed to be. It wouldn’t have made sense to separate people when they speak the same language.”

As Indians swapped shirts with Pakistanis and Pakistanis stuck the Indian flag into their hats, blue, green, saffron and white was no longer angry metaphors, just different shades of light.

Photo: AFP

Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Shoaib AkhtarJaved Miandad, Saeed Anwar and Saqlain Mushtaq are household names in India. I believe Indian cricketers such as Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Kapil Dev would be equally popular on the other side.

At a time when Indo-Pak relations are at an all-time low, Indo-Pak cricket ties would definitely improve strained ties between two cricket crazy nations or create an enabling situation which would set a platform for both the governments to engage in a dialogue.

Photo: Reuters

Sport lovers from both the countries would urge India and Pakistan not to mix sports with politics, as culture and sports are great levellers when it comes to improving ties between the two countries. Just as Bollywood movies are a big hit in Pakistan, the Pakistan TV serials like Humsafar, Maat, Kitni Girhain Baaki Hain have taken India by storm.

Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif should learn from the statesmanship shown by the former Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who offered a ‘hand of friendship’ to Pakistan, and agreed to revive cricketing ties, despite the unfortunate Kargil incident.

India’s tour to Pakistan was rightly called a ‘friendship series’. Pakistan, on its part, should abandon its paranoid approach while dealing with India.

We sincerely hope better sense prevails and that we get to see a good contest between the two great sides.

K S Venkatachalam

K S Venkatachalam

The author is an independent journalist and political commentator. He specialises in writing on political, social and economic issues. His articles have appeared in many Indian and International newspapers like Huffington Post, Global Times, South China Morning Post, The Hindu. He tweets as @Venkat48 (twitter.com/venkat48)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Headstrong

    Very sensible words, sir. I second your thoughts whole-heartedly. It would be nice if a Pakistani writer could write similarly in not mixing politics and trade. It seems Pakistan is not ok with mixing politics with anything, as long as it is acceptable to them. Politics should remain politics – nothing else should be brought within the ambit. Recommend

  • waqar

    Indian government is completely responsible for non revival of cricketing ties between two countries despite MoU is singed between BCCI and PCB. .Recommend

  • just_someone

    Its always the Indians who are too scared to play.
    We will play you anywhere, anytime.
    You’ll probably lose whatever you might do as long as you walk on the field against us.Recommend

  • GulSher

    Thanks you for writing this article sir but when you say, “We, in India, always took pride that unlike Pakistan, sports and cultural events with Pakistan were kept away from politics.”, it doesn’t make sense as Pakistan has never said it will not play cricket with India, however, India has mostly backed out of it’s commitments starting from Sharjah until today. I was a kid in mid 90’s and so I have memories of disappointment when India kept refusing to play.
    Even the recent warning –first of its kind from Pakistan– of not playing with India in WC t20 is a reaction to India’s constant refusal to fulfill its commitments.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Kirket is the opium left by Angrez in the subcontinent to keep the common citizen in stupor the loot & plunder by their proxies goes on. China and japan progressed because there is no kirket. Develop athletics in greek style, karate in Kerala styel where from it got exported to China but give up Roman fake gladiator fights like kirket. kabbadi is better. Chand Nawab ie Shashi Tharoor lost his wife in the corrupt illegal business of kirket.Recommend

  • RameshHeg

    Why so much fuss about not playing Cricket series between India and Pakistan? Very strange. There are so many pressing problems (much more important than Cricket) in either country that need to be addressed.

    India needs to focus on economic development and poverty alleviation rather than wasting energy in divisive issues. Try to boost the economic growth to above 8% and beyond.

    Pakistan is having bomb blasts every week, economy is tanking, investments are declining. Not playing Cricket seems to be the least of the problems.

    Heck even if you think Cricket is so paramount, either country is playing with all other countries. Why this obsession?Recommend

  • chaitanya

    A Nation provides shelter for international terrorists, back stabs a major peace initiative by a clandestine attack, scripts an attack on the other nation’s parliament, and in the backdrop of confidence building measures sends trained gunmen on a major killing spree. Even though “Non-State” actors are blamed for all these, shows no commitment to bring the perpetrators to justice. And in spite of all this, we are supposed to play cricket business as usual. Because tolerance has no limits, right? Sorry sir, even Vajpayee would not agree with you.Recommend

  • Tanmoy Kar

    While our soldiers are fighting insurgent / militant in the border almost everyday losing their lives in this process. how could we play cricket with a country who is doing this intentionally?Recommend

  • Milind A

    “Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif should learn from the statesmanship shown
    by the former Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who offered a
    ‘hand of friendship’ to Pakistan, and agreed to revive cricketing ties, despite the unfortunate Kargil incident.”

    The author should learn some pragmatism…. Nawaz Sharif has already learned statesmanship when Vajpayee was around… However with the military calling the shots in Pakistan and Sharif’s hands tied, nothing much can be achieved.. The moment Sharif tries to exhibit statesmanship, the army sabotages it… as it did a couple of months back (after the Ufa declaration.Recommend

  • mani

    Sir we here do encourage a visit from indian team as it is due on them…Pakistan visited india back in 2012…..now, since the bcci has thrown the ball in the court of modi govt. so they should take the necessary step as the required step has already been taken from our side by the visit of Mr. sharyar khan to india.Recommend

  • Asad

    @Author
    Only Modi and BCCI are undermining it, despite Pakistan’s and PCB’s efforts. You should be advising this to Modi and BCCI. ThanksRecommend

  • Jay

    If No trade , No MFN, before Kashmir then why Cricket before Kashmir ? Lets Solve Kashmir ( Another 100 years ) then play cricket ! I thought Pakistan is a “Gairatmand Quam”, by now they must should have understood BCCI is playing with PCB like a Madari. BCCI is the Madari , PCB is the monkey !Recommend

  • Logic

    With all due respect, just think honestly who is undermining the cricket? I’m 100% certain without any bias that its Modi at present. He is badly losing Indians support on the economic and shining India front, and resorting to cheap tactics.

    One thing I can say, “Modi/Nawaz can never be statesmen from what I have seen from their interviews, body language and above all their intellectual display.”Recommend

  • FDG

    hahahaha
    Yeah we saw that at WC
    we are still soo scared!Recommend

  • Cosmo

    Why dont u suggest the same for Trade as well? Infact lets apply that to everything between India and pkaistN, why should cricket get special treatment? Recommend

  • FDG

    No trade w/o Kashmir, coz we have nothing to sell
    Cricket and poltics should not be mixed, coz our future cricket depends on a series with India
    – A common PakistaniRecommend

  • FDG

    hahahaha
    Visit Pakistan for what?
    To die????
    no trade then why no cricket?
    Coz u have nothing to trade and much to gain from cricket?Recommend

  • JEet

    We (Indians) don’t care
    You called no trade w/o Kashmir
    We didn’t beg you then

    Now why beg for cricket?Recommend

  • Sane

    Looking at the attitude and arrogance of Indians and also by reading comments of Indians, I must say: There shouldn’t be any more cricket or any other sports with India.Recommend

  • Babar

    When did Nawaz undermine cricket for politics?Recommend

  • Rajiv

    There is no reason for playing Cricket with Pakistan
    Why Pakistan even want to play with India?
    Play with SL, SA, AUS,Eng,BANG and WI
    so many countries are there
    leave us.Recommend

  • Rajiv

    yeah Thanks
    we still don’t want to play with youRecommend

  • vasan

    I can say the same thing about Pakistan even more. Look at the arrogance of training and sending terrorists from 1991, attacking mumbai civilians, refusing to prosecute the planners and culprits, attacking cricketers in their own country and hence unable to host any international cricket series, refusing MFN and trade pacts and then DEMANDING a cricket series with India, What an arrogance. or what a pathetic stand that too for a few bucksRecommend

  • vasan

    I will give it to you, Pak is the winner, Leave us alone pleaseRecommend

  • vasan

    I will tell you what, Ask Obama and Kerry to ask India to play cricket with Pakistan. That should be the next step BCCP should take,.Recommend

  • Sane

    Massacre of Muslims in Gujarat, burning Muslims alive in Samjhota Express train, killing Muslims and burning their properties on eating or having beef, en-mass killing of Kashmiri Muslims, killing and beating Sikhs and doing disrespectful acts against their holy books, sending terrorist to Pakistan for subversive and other terror activities against innocent citizens, sending hoodlums in cricket stadiums and other sports tournaments, raping women specially foreigners, threatening and beating foreign actors, writers and poets………….are the best reason that none of the team in the world should participate in any sports tournament in India. Pakistan must also boycott all sports events in India including cricket.Recommend

  • Headstrong

    One word – KasurRecommend

  • sParthiv

    correction… we dont send indian citizens as terrorists to pakistan. we hire pakistan terrorists to go after pakistan. there’s a difference in how we indians and you pakistanis operate.we dont get our hands or breed non stat actors on our soil (remember kasab).Try proving indian involvement in pakistan terrorist activiies…Recommend

  • sParthiv

    actully your wrong. MODI has more approval rating than any indian PM so far and indian pride and nationalism is at its peaks since 1971 because of him. if you go through BBC or CNN ull come across a different picture all together. Its only pakistan media that drags him down to show yourself higher. happens only in pakistan. start viewing the world from outside pakistan prismRecommend

  • sParthiv

    well no, cricket is equal to trade. it generates income to pcb. why do you think pcb is dying to play with india? Because playing with india generates more income than playing with all the other countries. and pcb needs money to organize PSL. Hence trade = cricket= politics for pakistan. playing cricket with a enemy is like hiring a guy to kill himselfRecommend

  • Sridhar Kaushik

    Cricket is played only between friends.
    Why play cricket with an enemy country?
    Go to any TV channel where they are debating on India and see how much hatred is there for india.
    Writer of this article needs to do more research.
    I have watched umpteen number of TV debates (zem dot com; pakistanherald dot com) and come to this conclusion that Pakistanis just hate India and Indians.
    Why then cricket?
    Simply because that is where the money is.Recommend

  • Bibloo

    Prove to who? YOU? No need to.Recommend

  • mani

    a simple discussion without any hate speech with the focus on playing cricket between pak n ind was required…..than what u get indians just speaking up what they have been fed……keep it up indians thats the best u cado…pathetic
    Recommend

  • vasan

    Learn to differentiate between internal affairs and poking nose in others affairs. Will teach you and your country lots of good. We are least interested in what goes on inside your territories done by your own country men. So should you.Recommend

  • Someone

    No revival needed. India never refused to play pakistan in ICC tournaments. mou is not a contract. Recommend

  • Enkay

    “threatening and beating foreign actors, writers and poets”.

    India is not stopping “Foreigners” but only “Pakistanis”!

    A add to your laudable stateement ” Pakistan must also boycott all sports events in India including cricket i.e. ALL PAKISTANIS MUST BOYCOTT INDIA TOTALLY AND NO PAKISTANI SHOULD VISIT AT ALL FOR ANOTHER HUNDRED YEARS”. This will teach the Indian and after One Hundred Years Indians wil eagerly Invite Pakistanis.Recommend

  • Sane

    You, yourself confess that you India is perpetrator of terrorism in Pakistan killing innocent citizens. Shame on you.Recommend

  • vasan

    We have been fed?? Have pity on you. Indians formed all their opinions about Pakistan after the infiltration of terrorists in Kashmir by Pakistan in the 1980s and mumbai attack by Pakistanis, not to mention Kargil. In all cases Pakistan lied, denied and disowned their own people. Now everything has come to light and the world is laughing and scolding Pakisanis.. We are not fed with biased school curriculam like Pakistan hating other religions and distorting history. It is pakistan who is fed with anti India and anti Hindu crap from 1947. You can read umpteen articles in pakistani newspapers criticizing their school curriculam. Pl get your facts straight before commenting. We are simply not interested in Pakistani sportsmen or singers coming to India and making money and then escaping without even paying their taxes(and getting caught in airport). Why cant Pakistanis get that straight and stop discussing cricket, gazals and so on, They can go to Dubai and play with whomever they want. They can forget about BCCI and the IPL tamasha. Pl complain to ICC and ask them to boycott India.Recommend

  • sParthiv

    Well, isnt that what you want to here? and how is it shame on me when we are just reciprocating your own actions using your own citizens in the process? remember 26/11? kasab? hafiz saeed? musharraf’s statement of using jihad as an asset in kashmir?Recommend

  • Enkay

    GulSher “Even the recent warning –first of its kind from Pakistan– of not playing with India in WC t20 is a reaction to India’s constant refusal to fulfill its commitments.”

    India has accepted the Pakistani Government’s Warning with Good Grace. This is an example for the Pakistani Nation to accept India’s Decision not to let the Indian Cricket Team play with the Pakistani Cricket Team until Pakistan stops using its SO-CALLED “NON-STATE ACTORS” a euphemism for Pakistani Armed, Based, Directed, Supplied, Trained etc. etc. & etc.!

    May if Pakistan broke off all contacts with India then it is possible that the Government of India might agree for the Indian Cricket Team with Pakistan.Recommend

  • Sane

    Old rhetoric, unheeded by anyone now. Bring something new.Recommend

  • Jayman

    If commerce can be affected by tensions, why not sport? Why is sport sacrosanct? India and Pakistan should not have any bilateral sporting ties whatsoever until Pak vacates PoK.Recommend

  • Pakistani

    Stop blaming an entire nation for the actions committed by few.. grow up, I or the 19 crore pakistani people are held responsible for a few 100.Recommend