India: Most Favoured Opponent? | Pakistan Today

India: Most Favoured Opponent?

Sports are often seen as a vehicle for bridging the gap between nations, and promoting peace amongst them. While there may be a difference of opinion on the prospect of Pakistan and India joining hands for regional peace or the neighbours maintaining healthy trading links, there is a consensus, however, that when the two nations come together on the playing field, they provide the spectators with an emotionally-charged, action-packed contest.
Over the years Indo-Pak encounters have produced numerous memorable moments. From Miandad’s last ball six at Sharjah in 1986 to the Green Shirts’ 7-1 drubbing of the Indians in Delhi in 1982 Asian Games, there is a long list of sporting moments that remain etched in the memories of Pakistanis and Indians alike. And its not just the boundaries, wickets or the goals scored that makes these contests exciting, the celebrations, the flaring tempers and the heated altercations also add spice to these contests. The Afridi-Gamhir spat at Kanpur became a youtube hit, while the recent brawl between Pakistani and Indian hockey players in the tri-nation tournament in Australia was splashed across all news channels. Although some of these incidents cannot be termed as ‘friendly’, nevertheless they contribute towards making the contests all the more exciting, and bringing together people of the neighbouring countries.
However, the strained relations between the leadership of the two countries over the past few years make these fascinating contests a rare sight. In recent months, though, the relations have relatively improved, and while the leaders are still in discussing matters, the sports boards have sprung into action. Last month, the Indian blind cricket team and the kabaddi team toured Pakistan for bilateral contests, while Pakistan’s karate team crossed the border for the first South Asian Karate Championship. While the Pakistani blind cricket swept the three-match series, and the karate team brought home the gold after defeating India in the final, the Pakistani wrestlers were outdone by their Indian counterparts.
However, it wasn’t the score line that got everyone’s attention; rather it was the spirit in which these events took place that hit the headlines. In a region where cricket and hockey are the two most celebrated sports, the media attention, as well as the crowd turnout for these contests was well-above anyone’s expectations. And the players justified the media attention and didn’t disappoint all those who had turned out to witness these contests, by providing a great display of sportsmanship and fierce competition.
While there were no Sachins or Afridis involved, these contests certainly provided a glimpse of the good things to come. With PCB Chairman Zaka Ashraf visiting India to revive cricket ties, and PHF secretary Asif Bajwa proposing a four match bilateral series with India, the future looks bright. And let us not forget the possibility of Aisam and Rohan looking in each other’s eye from the opposite sides of the court. Although a favorable score line in these contests would certainly trigger off celebrations on either side of the border, but irrespective of the result, one thing is for sure, when Pakistan clashes with its most favoured opponent, the sport and its fans would be the real winners.

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