India-Pakistan cricket has become overhyped spectacle
It was two hours after the India-Pakistan match had ended and the curry mile in Manchester was a sight to behold. One side of the road was dark and gloomy and all the Pakistani restaurants bore a deserted look. On the other side, every Indian restaurant was full and every dance form conceivable was being performed. People were dancing to the dhol, the bhangra was impromptu and full of energy. The tricolour was everywhere and the party had just begun.
India had beaten Pakistan in a World Cup encounter, and yet again it was a one-sided contest. In fact, the one-sidedness of the contest has now led Pakistani fans to even question Partition! A tweet that has gone viral says, “Na partition hota or na hum zaleel hote” (if Partition hadn’t happened we wouldn’t have been humiliated).
This forces some questions. Can India versus Pakistan continue to be the event that it is if Pakistan continues to capitulate the way they did at Old Trafford? How long will fans from both sides of the border and from across the world pay top dollar to travel to destinations to watch the two teams play?
For the contest to retain its charm we need a better Pakistan. The cricket world needs a Pakistan, which is not a pushover and one that can stand up and compete. The Champions trophy final in 2017 was an aberration and it is now proved beyond doubt that India is a far superior side.
In fact, every Pakistani former cricketer and journalist on the eve of the match agreed that India started as overwhelming favourites and it would be a real surprise if Pakistan managed to beat Virat and his team. That’s not what this rivalry needs going forward. Unless there is competition, there is no rivalry.
Fans, after a point, will not want to watch one-sided games and will soon start to take things for granted. Frankly, the India-Pakistan contest now is an overhyped piece of spectacle, which the cricket world can live without. Unless things change in the near future, India versus England or India versus Australia will be the real match ups of a World Cup.
The problem with Pakistan cricket starts at the top. With Sarfraz Ahmed having absolutely no control of his team and looking lost on the field, it is a rudderless ship trying to navigate its way without much success. And the stinging criticism that is coming from fans and experts isn’t helping much. Sarfraz needs help not criticism. The players need handholding and not a rap on the knuckles.
For the record Pakistan had started poorly in 1992 as well. They were almost on the verge of elimination before Imran Khan supported by the brilliance of Wasim Akram and a young Inzamam-ul-Haq brought them back and went on to win the tournament. The problem is Sarfraz is no Imran and doesn’t command half the respect Imran did as a player. Some even question his place in the side and that’s the worst possible thing to happen to a captain in the middle of a World Cup.
So what’s the fate of the India-Pakistan rivalry going forward? Will it lose sheen and soon be a thing of the past or will fans continue to embrace it the way they have even if it continues to be a one-sided contest? Put bluntly, can the political significance attached to an India-Pakistan rivalry save it going forward?
While there is no definitive answer to this question just yet, suffice it to say the evidence at hand conclusively proves the adage that sports and politics don’t mix is wrong. It is because sports and politics always get mixed up in the sub-continent that India-Pakistan is still the contest that it is.
People watch it because there is something more than cricket attached to the contest. While the cricket is boring, the extraneous factors attached to it make India’s victory a huge deal. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that on current form, the India-Bangladesh contest is the real sub-continental derby, replacing India-Pakistan unless Pakistan cricket does something dramatic in the next year or so.