Play cricket, not politics
Even as the ‘historic’ meeting between Sushma Swaraj and Nawaz Sharif was underway in Islamabad on Wednesday, millions of cricket fans from the neighbouring nations were keeping their fingers crossed.
Even as the ‘historic’ meeting between Sushma Swaraj and Nawaz Sharif was underway in Islamabad on Wednesday, millions of cricket fans from the neighbouring nations were keeping their fingers crossed. The emotionally-driven sentiment is understandable given the popular belief that sports, particularly a bilateral cricket series, like cultural exchanges, could at least partly end the animosity that exists between the political bosses running the two countries.
Unfortunately, it is this very political vortex that is proving to be the stumbling block, particularly because the mandarins from either side are stubborn individuals, whose doublespeak on issues of mutual importance exposes their sadistic penchant to score over the other in the battle for wresting sub-continent one-upmanship.
The first ray of hope from the meeting comes in the form of a mutually-agreed decision to resume a comprehensive bilateral dialogue, which, hopefully, will develop into a forceful and full-fledged long-standing ‘healthy’ relationship. It would be a world order that every peace-loving nation will welcome with wholehearted delight.
This becomes crystal clear if one takes the Joint Statement in letter and spirit. Every topic under the sun has been dealt with in detail, including peace and security, Jammu & Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, economic and commercial cooperation, counter-terrorism, controlling the menace of narcotics, and humanitarian issues, whatever that implies. It is quite appalling that although ‘People to People’ exchanges and religious tourism have been discussed, there is no word about cricket. It is preposterous given the equation that exists in ICC. An Indian and a Pakistani sit atop but they have been reduced to mere pedestrians in the political game-plan.
But the two nations have wasted a golden opportunity in cementing the ties, which could have transpired with the resumption of a cricket series. Technically speaking, New Delhi is honour-bound to live up to its promise. An MoU has been signed between the administrators of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), whereupon India has to play at least six series.
PCB officials have minced no words while stating that India would never honour the commitments made, even though Sri Lankan Board is willing to be the neutral venue for a series between the arch-rivals.
Imran Khan is visiting India on Friday while Wasim Akram is keen on a ‘yes’ for the series. India-baiter Javed Miandad and many of his contemporaries have demanded that the PCB not go around with a begging bowl. Quite tragically, Indian cricketers have maintained a stoic silence for reasons best known to them. If there was an agreement on playing out the series, the popularity rating of Narendra Modi government, already at the receiving end due to several bloomers, would have skyrocketed for the simple reason that cricket as a ‘religion’ can unite folks of every ilk.
At the end of the day, the ‘historic’ meeting fits the classic adage – golden opportunities are seldom presented but easily lost. New Delhi will have a lot of explaining to do.