January 20, 2013

A case for the Amarnath-Kardar Trophy

The historically minded will love it if the captains of the first Indo-Pak contests were to be honoured so, but what about younger, more modern fans?

One of the great joys of writing for ESPNcricinfo is the range of reactions one elicits. An hour after my piece mooting a named trophy for Indo-Pak contests was posted, there were a hundred responses, largely (given that it was early in the morning in India) the work of non-resident Pakistanis and Indians. From these it seems that of the options offered by me, the Imran-Kapil Trophy and the Wasim-Kumble Trophy appealed more than the others.

On cricketing grounds either alternative is credible. Yet - given his own transition from cricketer to politician - Imran's name would be controversial in some circles in Pakistan, while fans with longer memories would recall that Wasim, while undeniably a great cricketer (with the possible exception only of Malcolm Marshall, the finest fast bowler who ever lived), was not above reproach in his conduct as player and as captain.

In a private email, my oldest and closest Pakistani friend, the economist Tariq Banuri, offered another option - the Amarnath-Kardar Trophy, after the captains in the first Test series between the two countries. Both were larger-than-life figures, and both had crucial cross-border connections. Kardar played for undivided India; and Amarnath was venerated in Pakistan.

One of my favourite cricket stories concerns the disembarkation from their flight of the Indian side that toured Pakistan in 1977-78. As the cricketers made for the bus that had come to receive them, their manager, the art collector, international jet-setter, and former Maharaja, Fatehsinghrao "Jackie" Baroda, made as of right for the Mercedes that had also come to meet the visitors. Before he reached the door, he was stopped by the liveried chauffeur, who pointed him towards the bus while saying: "Tum udhar jao - ye sirf Lala Saheb ke liye hai (Go to the bus. This is only for Lala saheb.)"

Tariq Banuri's proposal is intriguing as well as attractive. It would appeal to the historically minded, and to senior citizens. But I still think that since the vast majority of cricket lovers are under 40, the idea of a Tendulkar Trophy may make more sense. Indeed, if we wish to separate cricket from politics, and if fans want regular ties between the two countries, a Tendulkar Trophy may be the most workable solution. The all-powerful Indian cricket board, whose overflowing coffers determine - whether we like it or not - when and how often the two countries play one another, will jump at the idea. Besides, Sachin is a great sportsman, who in personal and cricketing matters is completely uncontroversial. He has always conducted himself with dignity and self-effacement, as did Frank Worrell and Basil D'Oliveira in their time. If Australians and South Africans can put cricket above partisanship, I trust Pakistanis can, too.

Personally speaking, as a professional historian who is not that far from being a senior citizen himself, I would be happy with an Amarnath-Kardar Trophy. But I suspect that a Tendulkar Trophy may fly more easily with those who have the power to decide, and activate, proposals such as these.

Historian and cricket writer Ramachandra Guha is the author of A Corner of A Foreign Field and Wickets in the East among other books

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