MANCHESTER: India’s great Farokh Engineer would like to see “relations restored” in a “delicate” situation with Pakistan so the arch-rivals can resume bilateral cricket series.
Amid the current glut of international cricket, one of the more remarkable statistics is that India and Pakistan have not played a Test against each other since the 2007/08 season.
An irony of the present stand-off is that the International Cricket Council (ICC), well aware of the huge global sporting and commercial interest generated by an India-Pakistan fixture, has admitted ´fixing´ the draw to make sure the two nations meet during one of their showpiece events.
They got two for the price of one at this year´s Champions Trophy in Britain, with India hammering Pakistan in the group stage of the 50-over event only for Pakistan to turn the tables in stunning style with a 180-run thrashing of their neighbours in a remarkable final at a sold-out Oval in London.
There is nothing new in a freeze in India-Pakistan cricket matches.
For example, none of outstanding wicketkeeper-batsman Engineer´s 46 Tests in a career that ran from 1961-75 were against Pakistan.
“It´s a delicate situation there, it´s up to the government really,” Engineer told media agencies during an interview at Old Trafford — the Manchester ground he came to call ´home´ during his time with county side Lancashire.
“They are saying we are having border clashes with Pakistan all the time and it just wouldn´t make sense playing cricket until relations are restored.
“I am all for relations being restored because basically, we are the same people — it´s the British government in 1947 who created the partition, but who am I to judge that? I like to leave that to the politicians.”
India and Pakistan went to war in September 1965 over the still-disputed territory of Kashmir, with both sides claiming victory when a ceasefire was signed later that month.
Hostilities continued to flare up, and Engineer said: “All the years I played India-Pakistan were at war and never actually played a Test series.”
There were no Indian players involved in the recent World XI T20 internationals in Pakistan, designed to revive top-level cricket in the country after an armed attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in 2009 turned the country into a ´no go area´ for leading cricket nations.
Engineer played alongside Pakistan stars such as Zaheer Abbas and Intikhab Alam during Rest of the World series against England and Australia in 1970 and 1971/2 respectively caused by the cancellation of South Africa tours.
As a result, Engineer had the best view in the house as the ´other batsman´ for a portion of West Indies star all-rounder Garfield Sobers´s blazing 254 for the World XI at Melbourne — an innings Australia´s Don Bradman, arguably cricket´s greatest batsmen, labelled the best he´d seen on Australian soil.
“Sobers was brilliant — he absolutely smashed Dennis Lillee to smithereens,” recalled Engineer. “All I could keep on saying was ´great shot Sobey´ while I was at the other end enjoying it all.”
´Fell in love´
But Engineer provided plenty of enjoyment of his own to spectators and team-mates alike during a globe-trotting career chronicled in the aptly-titled “Farokh: The Cricketing Cavalier”, an authorised biography written by Colin Evans, a former cricket correspondent of the Manchester Evening News, and due to be published in November.
“I fell in love with Lancashire, and I´m pleased to say they fell in love with me,” explained Engineer, 79, who went on to settle in the county long after being a key member of the Red Rose side that dominated English county one-day cricket in the early 1970s.
Former Lancashire and England batsman David Lloyd, now a well-known television commentator, was in no doubt of Engineer´s value.
“Farokh, absolutely terrific,” Lloyd told media agencies. “A wonderful wicket-keeper, lithe and natural. He had great anticipation, fabulous anticipation.
“As a batsman, totally unpredictable. He could play, take the short ball on — a real entertainer.”