Home / Industry / India vs Pakistan in an ICC event: It’s not even a surprise anymore

The cat, so to speak, might finally be out of the bag. Officially, at least.

On Wednesday, as the International Cricket Council (ICC) announced the fixtures for its flagship event, the 2017 Champions Trophy in England, one fixture unsurprisingly stood out. India and Pakistan will clash against each other in an ICC event for the fifth time in a row, a run that began in the 2012 World T20 in Sri Lanka. The match will be played on 4 June at Edgbaston in Birmingham.

However, what came as a surprise was an admission of sorts by ICC chief executive Dave Richardson, when he said, “No doubt we want to try and pit India versus Pakistan in our event." Richardson’s statement hinted towards a deliberate attempt by cricket’s governing body to pitch these teams against one another, given its significance.

He added, “It’s hugely important from an ICC point of view. It’s massive around the world and fans have come to expect it as well, and it’s probably no coincidence that the two keep ending up in the same group. It’s fantastic for the tournament because it gives it a massive kick."

It is no secret that the ICC considers the lucrative economic benefits of an India-Pakistan match, while drawing its fixtures. First, the guarantee of a full-house, with tickets selling out within minutes, if not seconds, of being released to the public. Second, the match typically draws a minimum global viewership of one billion, which in turn would attract potential sponsors and advertisers. More moolah in the kitty, so to speak. And lastly, the cricket itself, with a ready, “thirsty" audience for a high-octane clash between the two neighbours.

In this case, the choice of venue is equally curious, with Birmingham home to one of the largest Indian and Pakistani diaspora in the UK. When not grouped together for the main event, the ICC has almost found a way to ensure a warm-up match between the two teams, that rakes in similar money, and is beamed around the world. Like they did in the Under-19 World Cup earlier this year. Or for that matter, the 2009 World T20 in England.

Richardson said on Wednesday, “What we try and do is make sure that when you add up rankings of different groups, that they all add up to the same number of point. You can do that in a number of ways. You can go ‘Zig, zag’, you can go like a snake. So long as the pools are balanced, it’s silly to avoid (the fixture) when you can fairly cater for it."

Given the ongoing diplomatic hostilities between the two governments, India and Pakistan are unlikely to play out a bilateral series anytime soon. Which is where these ICC tournaments come in, with a promise of at least one (two if they meet in the final/semis) high-profile encounter between these two teams on an annual basis, to keep the rivalry alive and relevant.

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