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T20 Cricket World Cup 2021- Pakistan defeated India

By Atique Ur Rehman

T20 World Cup 2021 match on 24th October between Pakistan and India proved yet again that cricket is the most popular game in the sub-continent. BCCI and ICC have been depriving millions of fans of their most popular sport by not holding matches between cricket teams of India and Pakistan. Pakistan won the match and defeated the strong Indian team by 10 wickets. Millions of viewers watched the match on television in a festive environment. The jubilant Pakistani nation is celebrating the victory since last night.

Due to its economic potentials, energy, and human resource, rich cultural and social values South Asia, is viewed as an important region of the world. South Asia, home to 1.6 billion people, also gains significance because of India and Pakistan, two arch nuclear rivals, who have fought four wars in the past seventy years and continue to share a volatile Line of Control (LoC) which runs through disputed Kashmir. Historically, sports have played an important role in lives of people and nations.  Cricket is the most popular sport among both countries. In the past, cricket has been used as a diplomatic tool to cool down the heightened tension between two countries. Cricket has also been a victim of the political unrest between both countries.

The promotion of common cultural norms especially cricket and positive projection in media can ease tension between Pakistan and India.

Sports have a very significant and decisive role in human life. In the broader perspective of history, sports is much more than entertainment and have more meaningful context from the cultural, social, and political point of view. The relevance of sports in the study of history and present communities is of immense significance. It is important to understand the growth of cricket in India and Pakistan since independence in a historical perspective and to understand its political, social, and cultural implications. The social function of sport is a big analytical tool to understand the role cricket can play in the sub-continent. It elaborates that sports also have a social function for discharge of aggression harmlessly to achieve social cohesion or distracting masses from an issue of serious concern on the global front.

Since Independence, Pakistan and India never had smooth and cordial relations. Immediately after independence, Pakistan and India had a war in 1948 over the Kashmir issue. Since their independence, both countries have been engaged in security dilemma thus trying to maintain a balance of power against each other. Despite cultural similarities, the history of relations between Pakistan and India is replete with confrontations and mistrust over each other. Both countries have fought four wars since independence in 1947.

Relations between both countries have been more bruised since a terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001. Ever since the Mumbai attack in 2008 relations were further worsened. Regular cultural exchanges in the field of art, literature, and sports between both countries have also witnessed obstruction due to political confrontation and security concerns on either side. The disagreement between the two countries has also resulted in the discontinuity of sports particularly cricket on many occasions. Particularly, it has been the Indian pledge to discontinue sports with Pakistan. Cricket is the most common sport in India and Pakistan. It is a widely played game in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and now in Afghanistan. Out of eleven cricket-playing nations in the world, five are in the sub-region of South Asia. Cricket was played in the sub-continent even before the partition.

The first-ever International cricket match was played before partition on November 22, 1935 at Karachi.  After the partition, the Pakistan Cricket team visited India in 1951-52. In response to the Pakistani cricket team, the Indian cricket team visited Pakistan in 1954-55. Then 1965 war obstructed cricket and there was no mutual tour from either side from 1962 to 1977. In 1978, the Indian cricket team visited Pakistan among a jubilant environment. Cricket stadiums were full of spectators to witness the match between two popular teams having world-class cricketers. The series also gave rise to the popularity of the game between both countries and brought out some cricketing heroes out of players.

Bilateral Cricket between two countries has always been a ritual in the past. During the heightened tension, Cricket has played the role of a conduit. Between 1952 and1961 Pakistan and Indian cricket teams undertook three series but from 1961 till 1978 there was no cricket between both countries due to the 1965 and 1971 Wars. After the India tour of 1978, cricket between both countries continued unobstructed till 1991.

There was no bilateral cricket between both countries from 1991 till 2004. In 2004 Indian cricket team visit to Pakistan earned positive gestures out of cricket moments and the series helped a great deal to normalize prevalent tension. Another incident, the Mumbai attack, brought hurdles for cricket among two nations in 2008. Pakistani team visited India in 2012-13 for a brief tour and since then there has been no bilateral cricket except in International tournaments.

Pakistan and India have also co-hosted two World Cricket Cups. In 1987, Australia won the World Cup played in India and Pakistan. In 1996, Sri Lanka won the tournament which was hosted by India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka jointly. The two World Cups played in the sub-continent enthralled the audience of both sides of the border.

In the 2015 World Cup Cricket, more than one billion people watched the match between India and Pakistan.

Cricket has been a victim of BJP’s high-handedness between both countries. The Indian government has initiated not only propaganda of security reasons for the visit to Pakistan by foreign cricket by has also played a pivotal role through diplomacy that other cricketing nations don’t visit Pakistan. It has deprived Pakistani cricket fans of their most favourite sport. In the heightened environment, cricket can play both the roles, as a catalyst to fuel the tension and as a conciliator to reduce the tension.

During 1987 Pakistan and Indian forces came closer on borders and war was imminent between both countries.  President, General Zia Ul Haq, decided to go to India and watch a cricket match to bring ease on borders. The trick worked and the situation was normalized.

A common feature in both countries is that those responsible for crafting peace between two countries are themselves cricket lovers and they want to see cricket flourishing between two arch-rivals. It was reported in media that before the 2004 Indian cricket team tour to Pakistan, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee invited the Indian team to his house and asked them not to win only cricket but also the hearts and minds of the people of Pakistan. It shows the important political leaders attach to cricket for easing tension between both countries.

On 17 April 2005, President Musharraf in a diplomatic move visited India to witness a cricket match. General Musharraf stayed in the stadium for one hour and rushed to meet Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh for two hours to strike a trade deal easing war for future relations.

In 2011, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani also engaged in cricket diplomacy and met his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh at a world cup match between India and Pakistan and invited the Indian Prime Minister to visit Pakistan. Peace talks again resumed between both countries.

In the 2015 World Cup yet again Indian Prime Minister, called Pakistan’s Prime Minister, before the cricket match. Indian media highly criticized the Modi government and the initiative could not proceed further.

Hardliners in India have been disrupting cricket and other social activities. In January 1999, Indian Hindu militant group Shiv Sena dug out the pitch at Feroze Shah Kotla ground in New Delhi to disrupt the test match. In 1993 and 1994, twice Pakistan had to cancel its tour to India because of threat from the Hindu Extremist group of Bal Thakrey.

Pakistani players did participate in the first IPL held in May-June 2008. Due to the situation arising after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Pakistan barred its players to participate in the second Indian Premier League 2009. Since then no Pakistani player has participated in an IPL tournament.

There has been no bilateral cricket between both countries on the soil of India or Pakistan since 2012. However, both teams have played some international matches at neutral venues.

Cricket match between Pakistan and India are the most viewed matches not only in Pakistan but also in the entire world wherever Cricket lovers exist. If promoted and sponsored by both sides, Cricket can play a pivotal role in easing out the tension between India and Pakistan.

The writer is Ph.D. in International Relations from QAU and can be reached at