Indo-Pak cricket December 22, 2012

Two nations better than one?

One recurring fantasy of the Indian cricket fan is to speculate about a combined India-Pakistan team

One recurring fantasy of the Indian cricket fan is to speculate about a combined India-Pakistan team: If Partition had never happened, India and Pakistan may have fielded the greatest team of all times. Gavaskar and Majid would open the batting, Imran and er, Akram the bowling, Bedi and Qadir would spin anyone out, and so on. Many Indian fans indulge in this sort of rumination; they imagine that they are making some sort of statement of brotherhood and commingling, a giant Kumbaya moment of coming together on the 22 yards of the cricket pitch, a massive festival of candle-lighting at the Wagah Border, its glare bright enough to illuminate a Twenty20 game being played at the Gaddafi Stadium some thirty kilometers away. Thus the Partition, besides being responsible for the untold human misery caused by large population transfers, is also indicted on the charges of having weakened the cricket teams of the subcontinent.

I'm an Indian fan, and I've indulged in this little fantasy myself in the past. I've noticed that more often than not, Pakistani fans do not join in this little exercise in building castles in the air. The reasons are varied: sometimes it's because Pakistani fans who remember Pakistani batting greats of the past, are quite content to build up a fantasy XI that includes Majid, Hanif, Zaheer, Miandad et al with their fast bowling greats and reckon this would be good enough to take on the world. Sometimes it's because in this suggestion of unity, they perceive the elision of Pakistani identity.

Well, today, I'd like to join their camp and suggest that in purely cricketing terms, the Partition was a positive thing. If the Partition had not taken place, India and Pakistan (and Bangladesh) would have fielded one national team, and the thirty-three slots available for an international player - that are currently available for cricket players in the subcontinent - would be replaced by merely eleven. Eleven slots to fulfill the aspirations to play international cricket, earn a living from top-class cricket, and make a career out of the game, for a population of almost 1.5 billion (or is it more now?). Sounds like bad news for cricketers to me.

Due to the creation of Pakistan, a second national cricket team was formed, and eleven more opportunities to play international cricket presented themselves to first-class cricketers in the subcontinent. More cricketers were able to play international cricket and make a living from the game than would have been possible if just one nation had sent a cricket team from the subcontinent. The fallacy in Indian fans' fantasies about a combined India-Pakistan team now stands exposed: it imagines that exactly the same players would be produced in a one-nation system than are by a two-nation system. Not so.

Yes, a combined India-Pakistan team would have been able to call up on the cricketing nurseries of Lahore and Karachi in addition to those in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai etc. But there is no guarantee a stronger team would have resulted. Many players would have been lost in the first-class system, unable to find a place in the international XI, and dropped out from the game altogether.

But, thanks to Partition, more players thought about playing at the highest levels of the game, and accordingly stayed in the game longer. Many of the greats we imagine in our fantasy India-Pakistan team might never have made it to the top level if the two countries had remained as one. We might have been denied the chance to see Asif Iqbal or Dilip Vengsarkar, or perhaps Wasim Bari or Venkataraghavan. Two channels of selection can seek out more talent than one can.

International cricket still does no justice to cricketers the world over by shoehorning them exclusively into national teams and by treating that form of the game as the most lucrative one. The cartel of the ICC and its national boards, with its Full and Associate members, which insists that players play only 'official' cricket, and seek clearance from a national board to play elsewhere, perpetuates this problem. It ensures that promising cricketers can only make it big if their 'national teams' do. Perhaps if cricketers could play for entities other than nations, more of them could make a living from playing the game, whether at home or in some other distant land. A good Afghani player would not need to wait for Afghanistan to become a Full Member of the ICC before he could start playing top-class international cricket.

Cricket players could then make a living not bound by national boundaries, just like professionals all over the world do.

My new book Brave New Pitch: The Evolution of Modern Cricket is now available at Flipkart and Amazon.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • fanedlive on December 25, 2012, 21:49 GMT

    What a waste of time! Let's stop wasting our time going over this anguish over and over again. Every think of how many careers would have been nipped in the bud or never taken off had there not been two countries. Azhar and Malik could have fixed many more matches. Imran and Kapil would have ended up fighting all the time. Inzy and Siddhu would have run everyone else out all the time.


  • fanedlive on December 25, 2012, 13:56 GMT

    What about my eleven....

    As a test team, 1. Sunil Gavaskar 2. Sayed Anwar 3. Javed Miandad 4. Sachin Tendulker 5. Rahul Dravid 6. M S Dhoni 7. Imran Khan(C) 8. Wasim Akram 9. Waqar Unis 10. Abdul kadir 11. Saqlain Mushtaq

  • fanedlive on December 25, 2012, 4:29 GMT

    Indo-Pak Fantasy Team - Yes!

    Partition better for budding South Asian cricketers and uncovering greater talent on international stage because 3 teams > 1 - Equal Fantasy!

    Probability of 11/1.6 Billion (if there were a single South Asian team) is practically not very different from the probability of 11/1.2 Billion + 11/200 Million + 11/200 Million - current scenario of 3 separate teams.

    Given the size of the subcontinent's population, going from 1 -3 teams is insignificant - we'd probably need to go from 1 - 100 to make a significant difference in the way that you hypothesize!

  • fanedlive on December 24, 2012, 22:51 GMT

    Nice Idea Samir .. But its all imaginary and not executable.. so my friend come back to reality .. and let the two play each other because that is what they are destined to do ...

  • fanedlive on December 24, 2012, 19:43 GMT

    11 alltime gr8 bowlers from pakistan verses 11 alltime gr8 batsman from india!iam not finding solution who might win coz there is imran,akram etc who can bat very well and there is kapil,sachin,ganguly etc who can bowl well

  • fanedlive on December 24, 2012, 19:29 GMT

    I think people are afraid to see the truth. It is absolutely shocking to me in every way. If pakistan and india together , india would still say we do not have phast bowler as akram says. Hahaha. It is truth. India can make 100 time pakistan fast bowlers . Same gene , same diet. Different people in charge. Elitist in charge of india who picks and conviniently ignore Tall punjabi and meat eating muslim population. 1% of elitist occupy 90% of of 11 spot and the shocking thing is they are not even athletes. Only in IDEAL world india's best and pakistan best will be in one Team. Real world elitist always the evil.

  • fanedlive on December 24, 2012, 19:14 GMT

    my XI Sachin Tendulkar Zaheer Abaas Rahul Dravid Javed Miandad Sunil gavaskar Hanif Mohammad Kapil Dev Imran Khan cap Wasim Akram Bedi Fazal Mehmood Syed Kermani wk

  • fanedlive on December 24, 2012, 14:47 GMT

    What about this Team????

    Sachin Tendulkar Saeed Anwar Sunil Gavaskar Rahul Dravid Kapil Dev MS Dhoni(wk) Imran Khan(C) Wasim Akram Waqr Younus Anil Kumble Saqlain Mushtaq

  • fanedlive on December 24, 2012, 12:07 GMT

    You seem to be missing the point of that entire "one team" discussion ... its got nothing at all to do with logic and whether it would be better for cricketers. its just fantasy. stop being such a party-pooper

  • fanedlive on December 24, 2012, 10:20 GMT

    I totally agree with Samir that idea of a combined team is much more fancied among Indian fans rather than Pakistani fans. The reality is that Pakistan has always been a superior team in terms of overall record against India in all formats of the game. Only where India has done better is world cup encounters as they have been able to handle pressure better (Mind you India had a home advantage in two of those enounters).This notion of India being a batting powerhouse is slightly misleading as the same set of Indian batsmen have not won anything spectacular for India in decades. Pakistani batsmem are actually grossly under rated. Pakistan has produced some fine batsmen who have actually won matches for Pakistan. I do not see how a combined team would have done better than Pakistani team. Pakistan has the third best ratio of victories behind Australia and SA and India is not even in top five. Another issues would have been India's regional selection system!Idea may not even be implemented

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