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Hype n’ diplomacy aside, fans: Enjoy Indo-Pak Encounters
By Gowhar Geelani
Finally there is something for the fans of Indo-Pak cricket to cheer about. The Indian Home Ministry — considered by some as one of the main stumbling blocks — has endorsed the tour of Pakistan cricket team to India. However, the recently elevated External Affairs Minister of India, Salman Khurshid, has said while there is a “window opening” for better ties between the two nations, there is no change in India’s official stance on Pakistan bringing the perpetrators of Mumbai attacks [26 Nov, 2008] to justice. After assuming charge as Foreign Minister only a week ago, Mr. Khurshid was unambiguous while speaking to the media in his first official interaction holding the new portfolio.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan contingent will arrive in the Indian city of Bangalore on December 22 to feature in the two Twenty20 internationals and three ODIs. Bangalore and Ahmedabad are venues for the T20s while the three one day games are scheduled to be played in Chennai, Kolkata and Delhi. All the five matches will be played from December 25 - January 6. After confirming this short tour, the Board of Control for Cricket in India [BCCI] also released the itinerary on November 1.

This tour is happening after a long gap of five years. Indo-Pak rivalry on the cricket field has always been exciting. It has often been compared with the traditional Ashes enmity between Australia and England. Cricket enthusiasts expect nail-biters when it comes to India-Pakistan encounters on the cricket field. It will be no different this time around.

The tour is all set to become a reality after a lot of diplomatic work put in. The media in both India and Pakistan is giving reasonably good coverage to the stories related to this proposed tour. The television channels, as per the unpleasant routine, are running the sensational promos to arouse passions and create chaos.

There is a hawkish section of people in India who argue that unless the executors of Mumbai attacks are not brought to justice, Pakistan cricket team should not be allowed to visit India. There is a set of liberals too who believe Indo-Pak cricket matches can help in building bridges of friendship between the arch-rivals. There are tens of thousands of cricket fans, who are eager to see their favourite cricketers from both these teams fighting it out in the middle. Then there are those who believe cricket matches neither bridge the gap nor cause unwanted hostility. But the fact remains Indo-Pak cricket encounters are “war minus the shooting” and rightly described by some as “mother of all encounters”.

The rivals have not played in a bilateral series since 2007 when Pakistan had toured India. Cricketing ties between the neighbours were snapped soon after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, which left more than 170 people dead, including some foreigners. Since then, the two cricketing nations have only met in international tourneys — in the World Cup semi-final encounter in Mohali, India [2011]; during the Asia Cup in Bangladesh; and more recently in the ICC World Twenty20 championship in September 2012. In all these matches India has comfortably prevailed upon Pakistan.

On paper, the Indian batting line-up in the limited overs format looks deadly while Pakistan’s bowling, as always, seems too hot to handle. No doubt, Pakistan still holds the edge so far as the overall record between the two teams is concerned. Out of total number of 121 ODIs, Pakistan has won 69; lost only 48, while four matches have ended in no-result. In three T20s, Pakistan is yet to register a victory though. India has won two and one game has ended in a tie.

Currently, Pakistan is suffering from two major issues: the leadership crisis and the ageing players. Misbah-ul-Haq, the 38-year-old veteran, is not the man for the future. Flamboyant all-rounder Shahid Afridi is woefully out of form. Mohammad Hafeez is struggling at the top with his bat. Youngsters like Umar Akmal and Asad Shafiq should consider themselves unfortunate for they do not have batting role models like Inzamam, Miandad, Yousuf, Anwar; etc, in the current team to emulate. And sadly, the fast bowling — traditionally Pakistan's main strength— seems to be on a fast decline.

There are more fears. There are fewer hopes. But on their day, Pakistani players are capable of causing a storm. Let the ground decide the winner! And let the best team clinch the series!!

The columnist is a professional journalist and writer with international experience. He can be reached at [].
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News Updated at : Sunday, November 4, 2012
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