Cricket on the sub-continent is always news. After all, for most sub-continentals cricket is practically a religion, especially in India (and probably in Pakistan too). But the current India-Pakistan series is also news for a very different reason.The ongoing test series marks the first time in almost 15 years that India has played a test on Pakistani soil, and shows a thawing of relations between the two countries. In the past, attempts to host a test series between the two countries on non-neutral ground have resulted in pitch vandalism and death threats against the players.
More recently, the Indian government has been particularly against the idea of any sporting events between the two countries, claiming that sporting relations are subservient to political relations. Therefore until political relations between the two countries took a turn for the better, sporting relations would be suspended (except in events involving other teams, e.g. World Cups).
Thus the resumption of international cricket between Pakistan and India on non-neutral ground marks a new beginning not just for sporting relations, but also for political relations. Originally there were reservations about how many of India’s first choice team members would choose to go to Pakistan due to potential safety concerns. But the players recognized the significance of the occasion and unanimously agreed to make the trip.
This columnist has always called for athletes to consider the broader picture. Previous columns have opined that athletes should take a stand on political and moral issues (e.g. England boycotting their game against Zimbabwe in the World Cup). Now this columnist salutes the cricketers of both India and Pakistan for looking past themselves and their sport. They have instead acknowledged their chance to make a difference in the lives of over a billion people.
The results are there for all to see, symbolized in banners held up during the game. “We should be a friend, not enemy”, one such banner read. I couldn’t put it better myself.