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