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New Delhi: India versus Pakistan in World T20 at the Eden Gardens – can it get bigger and better than this? The thing is when these two teams clash it’s always bigger, better and much more than just what’s on display on the field. (India vs Pakistan World T20: Hosts Look For Turnaround Against Arch-Rivals)
No matter what the platform is or how good/bad the teams are or where the venue is, if it is India versus Pakistan, one can’t ignore it. So what if some captains and pundits make faint attempts to pass it as ‘just a game of cricket’, if you are from this part of the world, it ceases to be ‘just’ the sport.
The participation of Pakistan in 2016 World T20 itself was under cloud, after Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh hinted that Shahid Afridi-led side’s clash against India in Dharamsala might face security problems. Finally, it took an assurance from Home Minister Rajnath Singh and a change of venue to convince Pakistan to come to India.
Different aims for India and Pakistan
As things stand now, the match is of greater importance to India, who started the 2016 World T20 with a loss to New Zealand. A win on Saturday in Kolkata will ensure that Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men get two points on the board, and some more brownie points with fans.
Also, India have lost all their four limited-over games (ODIs) against Pakistan at Eden Gardens, a record that the hosts would like to change. (India vs Pakistan World T20: Five Key Battles To Watch Out For)
On the other side, a victory for Pakistan, who has begun with a 55-run win over Bangladesh, will take them very close to a semifinal spot and end a barren run against India in World Cups, which stretches to 10 games (six ODIs and four T20Is).
Much more than statistics
Then again, an India-Pakistan somehow always manages to rise beyond all these statistics, every time. The frenzy that engulfs fans, media or politicians alike when India and Pakistan face off is beyond explanation, a tad bit illogical sometimes.
Just like in Bengal, on the day of football derby between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, everybody takes a side and there are no fence sitters. (T20 World Cup: India Can Bounce Back vs Pakistan, says Ravichandran Ashwin)
They say it’s about their history, about the animosity that once existed between the migrant population from Bangladesh and the natives.
The friction has long died down but not before the grandfathers passed on the tales of it to their grandchildren, who take this one opportunity to give a rather passionate tribute to the ‘has been’ years.
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India-Pakistan presents almost a similar scenario, in a multiplied way. The complex political history between India and Pakistan might have been the genesis of this rivalry, but even after 69 years one country was divided into two ‘neighbours’, this rivalry has not ceased a bit.
The common populace says they want peace, and there can be no doubt on that. But whenever India and Pakistan face each other on field, the cheers are louder, the gasps more severe.
The tension at the border hasn’t helped matters either. The deaths of jawans led to the cancellation of a bilateral India-Pakistan series earlier this year, while Pakistan’s participation in the 2016 World T20 almost got cancelled due to the same reason.
And this is not an exception, be it the 1999 World Cup match during the Kargil war or India’s tour of Pakistan in 2003, as part of a peace process, the politicial and emotional subtext can never be negated during India-Pakistan match.
And as the two arch-rivals face off again on a grand stage, it’s bound to be more than ‘just a game of cricket.’