The partition of India
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