Bittersweet scent of victory


A short-lived illusion?

The short Indian tour by the greenshirts had seemingly been conjured out of a hat like a magician’s (or these days, more like a politician’s) perplexed rabbit or the multiples of that extremely fast breeder. It all happened so quickly that it caught most of the cynics by surprise, and even the fanatically anti-tour Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray graciously gave his stamp of approval by transmigrating into another reincarnation, thereby taking the steam out of his organisation’s pet hate campaign. But this change (or interchange) of state might well have been brought about by sheer disgust at the sudden turn of events against his express wishes. (However, since death is the great leveller, it must also be brought on record that after all, he had been ailing for a number of years).

The tour went on without a hitch, greatly to the credit of the cricketing boards of both the sworn arch-rivals and, more importantly, the behind the scene intervention by ‘patrons’ and politicians. But some were still left rubbing their eyes or pinching themselves to make sure that the matches were actually taking place on their television screens, or more accurately being fought out in the duel like manner with which the sub-continental fans are familiar.

There was nothing ‘Bangladeshi’ about this cricket tour, no hemming and hawing, no Dhaka High Court decisions, no back-tracking, no on-again, off-again confusion and no double-speak before the final nyet. The last of the Sheikh Mujibs, his only surviving daughter and now prime minister, Sheikh Hasina Wajid, reasoned (if such it could be termed) that politics and sport were an excellent self-serving mix, and no doubt with a woman’s famously intuitive sense, needlessly brought up the matter of ‘war crimes’ and ‘apologies’ over 1971 just as Bangladesh’s cricket tour to Pakistan seemed more or less assured. Acrimonious exchanges followed and cricket relations between the two also plummeted to new lows. They will take some doing to mend in the short-term.

The all too short Indian tour, encompassing just two Twenty20 and three ODIs lived up to all the star billings and global rating of sporting encounters between the two countries. Jam-packed stadiums, frenzied crowds, cricket fought till the final ball with a fierce intensity, with millions of cricket lovers around the world also enjoying the feast. In these grim times, cricket has become a cave and a refuge of calm for some, but this is certainly not the case for the Pak-Indian fans when their teams are battling it out. A continuous outbreak and display of raw, primitive emotions is more the rule in this business.

Although Pakistan’s ODI series victory turned bittersweet after a dismal display in the final match, it displayed a marked improvement in areas in which it was previously lacking, if not pathetic, including fielding and commitment in giving a hundred percent by the players. The maturity in Nasir Jamshed’s batting, Mohammad Hafeez’s proving his worth both in batting and bowling, the emergence of the ever-improving young fast bowling duo of Junaid Khan and Mohammad Irfan (so soon after the forced exit of stars Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir) promise a rosy future for Pakistan cricket, if managed on merit, especially in the selection process.

But sadly, future sub-continental encounters again threaten to turn into an illusion like the one created by the magician’s sleight of hand or into a distant dream like the garbage heap of politician’s broken promises. Reportedly, India has all but backed out of the promised return tour in August. It may be bitterly cold weather-wise, but already things have started heating up on the Line of Control, with accusations and counter-accusations followed by patriotic statements, and it can hardly be said without fear of contradiction that all is serenely quiet on the other borderline in the north-west, the one Mortimer Durand made. With terror striking at will within the country, another long march on the cards soon, and national elections round the corner, a long wait seems likely before the fans in India and Pakistan unbelievingly rub their eyes and again remark, “It is happening.”

The writer is a freelance columnist.


  1. Credit goes to Manmohan Singh Govt. The security cover provided to the stadium and Pakistani players and visitors cost us hundreds of crores of rupees. BCCI does not pay for this. No acrimony. It ended well.
    But let me tell you it was all controlled by Govt of India and the pressure was on BCCI to accomodate series at any cost. This series was squeezed between another series. The bitterness and rage in India against Pakistan is unabated. Make no mistake. Cricket does not take precedence over human life.
    Good luck.

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