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September 20, 2009

Samir Chopra

An early vote for India-Pakistan Tests in England

Samir Chopra



My weekend got off to a rough start, but the news I read this morning, that India and Pakistan might play Test matches at a neutral venue (sometime after 2012) has put a huge smile on my face.

Hopefully, the sensible thing will be done by staging these in England. India and Pakistan need to stage their Test cricket somewhere else; in stadiums that might actually fill up with loud, enthusiastic fans, of which there will be plenty in England for both teams. Pakistan can regard North England as "home" and India can do the same with the South. Many expats will fly in to watch the games (I would seriously consider flying over for one Test at least), and hopefully, English pitches will co-operate with the weather to produce some result-oriented cricket. The India-Pakistan cricket relationship needs a shot in the arm, and this might do it.

The fact of the matter is that even without the politics that has been getting in the way, India-Pakistan Test cricket in recent years has been a bit of a crashing bore (and not just because both boards have staged too much cricket between the two). The series in 2004 was played in empty stadiums, an especial irony given all the pre-tour hoopla about how desperate the Pakistan cricket fan was to see the Indian team in action. The two series played in India since then have been impressive showcases for India's inability to close the deal in Tests. In both series, India held the upper edge, and managed to royally stuff things up. In the 2004-05 series, they won one Test when Pakistan obligingly rolled over, but failed to drive home the advantage in another, and then completely lost the plot by putting together a nice last-day collapse in the third Test.

In the last series played in India, Pakistan sent over a team which looked so lackluster on the field that I almost felt like asking them to walk back to the pavilion for an intravenous coffee drip. India failed to put this bunch out of their misery as well, managing only a 1-0 win when by all rights they should have wiped the floor with a 3-0 margin. The last Test featured that perennial favorite of Indian Test captains: the meandering, cautious move toward a declaration, which is then delayed so much that a draw is the only outcome possible.

But the crowning glory of India-Pakistan Test cricket in recent times was the series in Pakistan in 2006, which showcased dead pitches and horrendous run-fest snoozes in the first two Tests, before India redeemed matters with a spectacular display of incompetence in the third game (it takes special talent to lose after your quick bowler has taken a hat-trick in the opening over of a Test).

I can only hope with fingers crossed, that the games will be staged in England and that plans will be finalised soon. The current enforced gap is a good thing; it has made cricket between India and Pakistan a little less common, a little more desirable. A good India-Pakistan Test can be the best of the best. But it needs some large crowds and a co-operative pitch or two. I think these will be found in England; I'm sure about the first and optimistic about the second. India and Pakistan will both have attacks capable of exploiting the conditions, the locals will be looking to pick up some bragging rights, and many English fans will turn up to watch as well. It has all the makings of a good summer of cricket. Bring it on.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

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Posted by the_cooz on (December 10, 2009, 13:07 GMT)

Late commenter on this, but I just had to. I personally think it's a great idea to stage India-Pakistan Tests in England at some stage. Many Indians and Pakistanis live there already (similar to South Africa, which could be another neutral contender), so there will be much interest to begin with. Add to that the many fans who will fly over from India and Pakistan to watch these Tests, and you've got yourself a winner. Plus, England's pitches are much more suited to good Test cricket (where EVERYBODY gets a chance - not flat strips of tarmac the subcontinent only produce too often), so the Tests themselves should be more entertaining. Also, England is the home of Test cricket. Many neutral Test cricket fans will turn out to watch these Tests.

Just a word of advice - not too often. This should be more of a one-off that the norm.

Posted by waterbuffalo on (September 22, 2009, 10:06 GMT)

Pakistan is synonymous with dead, flat, front foot wickets and empty stadiums. India played to empty stands even against Australia. Both countries have given up on Test cricket, play in England and in Toronto, anywhere, but Pakistan and India. You guys have to be honest about it, and admit that your stadiums cannot be filled during Tests, you can't even get 5,000 in. Which is astonishing considering how good the Indian team is at the moment.

Posted by Talal on (September 21, 2009, 22:39 GMT)

@kumar: for ur information pak has beaten india more in both ODI and test matches..

@jitender: sports actually bridges countries together..as far as mumbai attacks are concerned they are debatable..but this is not the place to talk abt it..sports and politics shud be separatly delt..who cares abt the world wars and waht they did thats teh past and doesnt mean it was right..

Posted by Duff on (September 21, 2009, 20:41 GMT)

Jitendra man, your anger is misdirected. Do you believe that the cricketers and the cricket fans of Pakistan are responsible for bad things done by these miscreants? They most definitely weren't. Pakistan has lost a more people to these idiots in the recent years then India.

We ought to use sports to bridge the gap instead of using it to widen it.

Posted by Ahad on (September 21, 2009, 19:09 GMT)

I'm sorry but i dont completely agree with this idea.. I believe that Pakistan and India matches should be held in Dubai rather than England. This is because there are many, many, many more desis in Dubai than there will ever be in England.

By the way. Right now i believe Pakistan has their best team in long years and India is out of form. Right now.. I'm not saying in overall but right now Pakistans team is better than India's. ANd just in case you ever would care to go back to history, just look at the ratio of wins in the history of India and Pakistan cricket. *Indians silenced*

Posted by Orlurumsana on (September 21, 2009, 17:11 GMT)

To: Kumar & Hari

Please check the one to one results of all Tests and ODIs played so far b/w india & Pakistan. Pakistan is way ahead and if india couldn't equal it when they have greedy players like Tendulkar, Gangulay & Dravid who have always played for recoders; I don't see them equalling it in the near future :)

I am pakistani but honestly i have never liked cricket played at pakistani conditions. So i guess it's a great idea to see the two teams play in England. I think we will have result-oriented cricket.

Posted by Haroon on (September 21, 2009, 16:03 GMT)

Jitendra: You're right, you lost brothers and sisters in a suicide attack. If anyone understands that it's the Pakistani people. We've been suffering from this cancer for almost a decade. If you think the average Pakistani is happy about the Mumbai attacks, you're sadly mistaken. Once a people has seen as much suffering as we have in such a short space, the last thing you want is to wish it on another, whoever they may be. You personally didn't kill my brother or sister, and I would love to play 9 holes with you mate. Think its time we all dial down the hate. It isn't helping anyone, and its getting really old, and not going anywhere!

Posted by Haroon on (September 21, 2009, 15:56 GMT)

At Kumar satyam, So our records like 92 WC in Australia, Saeed Anwar's 194 against India in Chennai, 2009 T20 WC hold no merit because they were all umpired by Pakistani officials? I see, there I was thinking those records were on neutral grounds, some even in India. If you want to talk about historical home bias, don't forget to check out your own backyard, in fact that goes for pretty much every team. We don't need to beg to play in the IPL, lets look at facts. We were the only team to not participate in the IPL, lo and behold worthy winners. At Hari: Yeah lets look at India and Pakistan's recent performances in England on fast bouncy tracks, oh wait you've been trying to hide your pain about humiliated (yes, humiliated) in the 2009 T20 WC. Y'all were billed as the rock stars, the superstars, defending champions, favourites etc etc. How'd that work out for you? You lost to a Windies team which wasn't even going to take the pitch the day before!!! (and a sub par England team!)

Posted by AQ on (September 21, 2009, 15:28 GMT)

I don't know why you folks are bringing politics and all the crap in cricket. I also don't know why India always blame Pakistan and other muslims for every single incident all the time. I don't know why india has forgotten the samjhota train incident. I don't know why India doesn't learn from Pakistan that it is not good for any country to blame each other. As I don't see Pakistan is blaming India all the time for everything even though it is really easy to create all sorts of true but fake stories. In my views we should forget about blaming the other countries and work together as 2 brother countries, who have so many things alike, which we can't even count. I also know back at home I used to think neighbor country is our enemy but after moving to states I have learned we are just like brothers and very good friends, I don't know why have all of you who are bringing politics try to learn that. Please leave all the politics behind and work together to make indo-pak best in the world.

Posted by SE Thakurdas on (September 21, 2009, 14:59 GMT)

Why wait till 2012, bring on the INDIA Vs PAKISTAN on neutral venues as soon as possible. The ICC,Indian and Pakistani cricket boards can work easily to get this organised. Why should the fans and Cricket suffer because of unwanted situations in the relevant countries. Get on with it and get it on.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samir Chopra
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He runs the blogs at samirchopra.com and Eye on Cricket. His book on the changing face of modern cricket, Brave New Pitch: The Evolution of Modern Cricket has been published by HarperCollins. Before The Cordon, he blogged on The Pitch and Different Strokes on ESPNcricinfo. @EyeonthePitch

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