Will India-Pakistan tensions queer the cricket pitch?

  • Cricketers and Hindi film stars are always called upon to display their loyalty to the country in times of hyper nationalism
  • Among the top five most watched one-day international (ODI) matches, all barring the top spot are held by India-Pakistan games

The call not to play Pakistan in this year’s ICC World Cup after the 14 February Pulwama attack is just one in a long list of off-pitch skirmishes between the two nations. Mint looks at the on-off pitch highs and lows of India-Pakistan cricket.

How often have India-Pakistan matches been called off?

In 1991, Shiv Sainiks vandalized the pitch at Mumbai’s Wankhede stadium two days before an India-Pakistan one-day series was to start. Pakistan cancelled that tour. Its tours of 1993 and 1994 didn’t take place due to security fears. A 1998 Test match in Mumbai was cancelled as the Shiv Sena, part of the coalition government in Maharashtra, was against the game being held. Delhi’s Ferozshah Kotla ground was dug up in 1999, allegedly by Shiv Sainiks, ahead of a Test match between the two nations. The match was still played and is best remembered for Anil Kumble’s 10-wicket haul.

Who said what about nationalism?

Cricketers and Hindi film stars are always called upon to display their loyalty to the country in times of hyper nationalism and criticized for not doing so. After the Pulwama attack, former cricketer Sunil Gavaskar said India should play Pakistan in the World Cup. Sachin Tendulkar, now a Rajya Sabha member, has taken a more balanced approach. “India has always come up trumps against Pakistan in the World Cup. Time to beat them once again... Having said that, for me India always comes first, so whatever my country decides, I will back that decision with all my heart," he told news agency PTI.

Can Pakistan be kept out of the World Cup?

ICC has ruled out excluding Pakistan from the World Cup. Pakistan is a strong team and other members won’t be amenable to the idea of keeping it out when the tournament is near.

What’s the economics of cricket matches between the two countries?

Among the top five most watched one-day international (ODI) matches, all barring the top spot are held by India-Pakistan games. The second most watched ODI was the 2011 World Cup semi-final that attracted 495 million viewers. The 2017 ICC Champions Trophy final (387 million viewers) is in the third spot, followed by a group game in that tournament that was watched by 324 million. A 2015 World Cup group game between the two nations rounds out the list, with 313 million viewers.

What are the on-pitch highs and lows?

The last-ball six that Javed Miandad of Pakistan hit off India’s Chetan Sharma in an ODI at Sharjah in 1986 left a big psychological impact on Indian cricket for years. In the last 15 years, India’s record on the field against its arch-rival has improved. It has never lost a match to Pakistan in the World Cup. But the overall results seem to seesaw between the two countries. India beat Pakistan in the finals of the 2007 ICC World Twenty20, while the latter beat India in the 2017 Champions Trophy final.

Close