No. 18 May 2, 2010

The partition of India

Amit Varma
An event that resulted in one of the most intense rivalries in sport

What if Gavaskar and Imran had played for the same team? © Wisden Cricket Monthly

Cricket is a surrogate of national identity in India and Pakistan - and no single event has shaped that identity more than the partition of India.

Like a surgical operation performed with a butcher's knife, the partition left wounds that would fester. These carried over to the cricket.

The essence of sport lies in drama and conflict, and there is a surfeit of both when India and Pakistan meet on a cricket field - the frenzied emotions, the desperate passion, the pitched nationalism bring a deadly seriousness that goes beyond sport.

And what if there never had been a partition? Imagine a united team of the mid-eighties, bringing together Gavaskar, Miandad, Kapil, Imran, Zaheer, Vengsarkar and Akram, with Tendulkar and Waqar waiting in the wings. The landscape of the game - played by so few countries as it is - would have been entirely different.

Amit Varma is a former managing editor of Cricinfo. This article was first published in Wisden Asia Cricket magazine

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Harpalsinh on May 4, 2010, 23:35 GMT

    Come on now Amit. We used to think about this when we were kid. Partition has already happened and it is way too late. Wake up 2010 is here. I know it sounds very good but it adds more complications to things which already has enough problems. Look at the drama and problems both boards are dealing with. One side you have Ijaz Butt & other side you have Lalit Modi. We all have had enough with all the drama and just want to see interesting, full of fun cricket matches of India vs Pakistan. I can't wait both of them playing since Afridi is the new captain and there may be very slight posibility of Shoaib Akhtar getting selected. So I think we should just focus on that rather then partitionless team. Noboy leaves early from work or cut school/college to watches domestic games. But I bet you we all from both countries have done it. Wheather leaving work/business early, cutting school/college or any other things just to watch INDIA VS PAKISTAN. Hope my comment gets poasted. Thank you.

  • Akbar on May 3, 2010, 7:17 GMT

    Im not old enough so I could not watch them (Imran, Kapil, Miandad, Gavaskar, Zaheer etc) play but Im privileged to watch them play like Wasim, Waqar, Shoaib Akhtar, Inzimam, Asif, Sachin, Sehwag, Dravid and Kumble. It was Imran who broght the massive cricket fan following in the subcontinent.

  • Akbar on May 3, 2010, 7:05 GMT

    I agree with "sermadali" that if the population matters then Australia would have been on the bottom of the chart and India with highest population on the top, but i hope u would agree that its not the case. I think if Ind+Pak would have been the same country then we would not see a lot of players on the cricket scene from both sides. Suppose if they would have been the same team then there would be only few Indian bowlers (like Kapil) and few Pakistani batsmen (like Miandad) in the combined team. In this way we would have missed several players. Im happy that there r separate teams and I would love them to play again with each other. ALI

  • Kannan on May 3, 2010, 4:58 GMT

    The partition of India happened because a section of society believed that they could NEVER live harmoniously with the rest in a fair and equitable way. Fantasising of a partition-less India with a great cricket 11 that would be world beaters and writing an article on it is a waste of everybody's time. Look at the sort of infighting that happens even otherwise within both these countries and the mess they make of their national selection, trying to appease various lobbies, regions and factions...A partitionless India would have had the additional factor of the "religion card" thrown in. Not that it is not there already. Even today, there are Indians who say..."see we are fair - there are Muslims in the cricket team". How stupid can they get? And what about Azhar - who claimed he was being targeted ( for matchfixing) because he was a Muslim forgetting the fact that he had been the captain of India for several years. There is pettiness and stupidity to be found everywhere...

  • Harish on May 3, 2010, 3:37 GMT

    To all t1he fellow cricinfo readers, while it is a little farfetched to think of the single nation theory with regards to the likes of Gavaskar , Imran and co playing together, it must be looked at with a li'l lighthearted imagination and not as hypocrisy and denial as some of us as pointed out. There is a lot riding on the word "if" here. So let us leave it at that. I feel that India and Pakistan produce some of the best talents in world cricket, no matter the teams have been inconsistent, but the likes of Sachin, Dravid, Inzamam and even the newer folk like Umar Akmal cannot be produced by the English or the australian. There is an exotic charm to asian cricket.

  • Dummy4 on May 3, 2010, 1:27 GMT

    @Kickus Uranus - It's one thing if your meant that Pakistani players with impoverished background might have never been sighted and how difficult it would have been to make it to final 11, but playing the religion card is just not right. Indian team always has at least one Muslim player and in the past has been captained by a urdu speaking man from a Muslim family - Mhmd Azharuddin.

    Also, the linguistic divisiveness of Urdu & Hindi only came into being after partition - there were plans of making Hindustani our national language.

  • Nathan on May 3, 2010, 0:27 GMT

    From my own selfish, cricket related view point, I'm very glad the partition occured. Pakistan were one of my favourite teams as I grew up watching cricket, so many exciting matchwinners and mercurial talents. Besides that, india already has a MASSIVE advantage in terms of population and the pool of cricketers they have (not that it has done them much good for the majority of their history...), surely they shouldn't need another 160 million to pick from

  • Manohar on May 3, 2010, 0:20 GMT

    I disagree with someone here talking about religion may play a role in selection but there are players from different religions played for India and I doubt that would be the case. I think Miandad, Wasim, Imran, Inzi, Kapil, Tendulkar, Sunnyand so many others possess more than enough technique and sporting power that no matter where they are from they are bound to play for their country. I am pretty we might have missed some talented players but to measure up for the above mentioned players you must be one of a kind. I think Indio-Pak team would have been a super power I don't hesitate to call them Windies of East no matter how foolish that may sound :)..

  • Muhamad on May 2, 2010, 23:57 GMT

    You know, how things work in Pakistan? Especially how the fast bowlers appear on international scene before even playing at national level? Wasim, Waqar, Imran? How were they picked up? I'm not sure it would have happened if it was one country. Is it just a coincident that Pakistan is known more for its fast bowlers , whereas India for its batting greats? I really think that those Asian XI vs Rest of the World Contests should be revived, which were very common in early 2000s. A nice time would be before the 2011 WC.

  • Bennett on May 2, 2010, 21:17 GMT

    A question that swirls around my head is which country produced the greater superstars. During my generation, India produced superb batsmen in the form of Gavaskar, Tendulkar and Dravid. During that same period, Pakistan produced superb fast bowlers in the form of Imran, Wasim and Waqar. Which is the greater trio ? I dont know, but I'll say this. They would have complimented each other nicely.

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