IND v ENG (W) (1)
Legends League (1)
Abu Dhabi T10 (3)
SA v BAN (W) (1)
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AUS v PAK (1)
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Cricketing ties between India and Pakistan have had their ups and downs in the half century since the two countries first met on the field in New Delhi in October 1952. But there is little doubt that cricket ties between the two neighbours have never been in such serious jeopardy as they are now.
It was with great fanfare that the cricketing ties commenced. Matches between the two countries was something that every cricket fan on either side of the border had been looking forward to since independence. Relations between the players were excellent. It must not be forgotten that cricketers like AH Kardar, Gul Mohammed and Amir Elahi had played for India before representing Pakistan. When India made the return visit to Pakistan in 1954-55, the welcoming crowds not only at the stadia but also at the railway stations were unbelievable.
Indeed, this was the time when the Maharajkumar of Vizianagaram, as the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India came up with the idea that India and Pakistan meet should meet every two years and like England and Australia, compete for the Ashes - the Ashes in this case being a casket containing the soil of the two nations intermingled. However his grandoise plans just remained on paper.
Pakistan toured India in 1960-61 and as India prepared to make a return tour two years later, the tour was called off at Pakistan's behest. There was nothing political about this decision; it was only that Pakistan had just returned after a disastrous of England and did not want to take on India at this juncture.
In the mid sixties, political tensions between the two countries increased. Two wars followed, the first in 1965 and the second in 1971. Obviously cricket was the last thing on anyone's mind and it was only after hectic diplomatic parleys on both sides that cricketing ties were resumed with India finally touring Pakistan in 1978.
That tour, which attracted large crowds, was a path breaker. Over the next decade, India had more encounters with Pakistan - Tests and one day internationals - than against any other country. Pakistan made their return tour in 1979-80, again to record crowds. Then in the eighties, the two countries exchanged visits every year - India went in 1982-83, Pakistan paid a return visit in 1983-84 and India went back in 1984-85. The last tour however ended abruptly following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
With a decision taken not to make the tour every year, Pakistan visited India in 1986-87 while India made the return visit in 1989-90. By this time, bilateral relations had improved considerably and the two countries played one day internationals at regular intervals and all over the world with Sharjah being a particularly favourite venue.
Relations between the two countries however turned suddenly cold in the 90s and cricketing ties naturally enough became a casualty. The encounters between the two teams became rare until it became impossible to have a match in either country. Sponsors then hit upon the idea of having the games at a neutral venue and so the annual Sahara Cup became a reality in 1996 in a far off and unlikely venue like Toronto.
Feelings in this country against Pakistan hardened in the closing stages of the decade and it did seem unlikely that cricketing ties would be resumed. Some politicians notably the Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray took a hardline stance on the issue and even threatened violence. There was no question of Pakistan playing in Bombay and indeed on the eve of the long awaited tour by that country to India in January-February 1999, Shiv Sena activists dug up the pitch at the Feroze Shah Kotla grounds in New Delhi. The tour however materialised amidst unprecedented security. The Chennai crowd gave the Pakistan team a standing ovation after they won a thrilling Test match by 12 runs. But disatisfaction with the umpiring in the next Test at New Delhi and some unfortunate incidents in the inaugural match of the Asian Test Championship at Calcutta - even if these were not directly connected with the Pakistan team's visit - did not improve matters. As the decade drew to a close, relations grew worse following the Kargil conflict. There were a few ugly incidents - including the burning of the Indian flag - during the World Cup match between the two countries at Manchester in 1999 and this in turn led to India refusing to play Pakistan in the Sahara Cup Series. Then last year, India backed out of a tournament in Malaysia, again refusing to play Pakistan.
The Indian Government's stand has been that as long as Pakistan is backing terrorism in Kashmir and that border conflicts continue, the two countries cannot resume cricketing ties. The BCCI can do little but to go by the government's stand. Pakistan cricket authorities have time and again indicated their willingness to play India anytime and anywhere and have faulted India's stand on the matter. Now with the latest salvo - Sports Minister Uma Bharti rejecting the hastily arranged competition in Sharjah to be held in aid of the quake victims because Pakistan was one of the participants - the Indian government has underlined the fact that their stance on the issue has hardened even further. This has put even the next tournament at Sharjah in April - involving India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka - under a cloud.
For their part, Pakistan has made their displeasure at India's stand clear. "India is isolating itself from international cricket," Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Tauquir Zia is quoted to have said, adding he intended to complain to the International Cricket Council (ICC). "After India's constant refusal, we are now left with no choice. We will not approve the ICC's 10-year programme of cricket schedules," he has warned. "We are supposed to play India at least four times during the next 10 years and if they refuse to tour us all the time, then why sign such a programme?" Zia added. Incidentally, the two countries last played each other during the Asia Cup in Bangladesh in May last year.
Given this depressing scenario, it would indeed require a miracle to revive ties and at the moment the situation very much resembles the troubled period of the 70s when there was never any chance of having cricketing ties between the two countries.