The recent news that India and Pakistan might be considering resuming bilateral cricketing ties ignited a great deal of social media chatter and excitement. After all, the two neighbours haven’t played bilateral cricket since early 2013 – a gap of over eight years!
India v Pakistan was, is and will continue to be one of the most eagerly awaited contests in world sport, with both nations coming to a virtual standstill when the two sides take the field against each other.
Sadly, the news of resumption seems to have been the act of someone’s hyperactive imagination and from all accounts, we are still a long way away from any real chance of resumption. Clearly though, it is time – not least because both teams seem to be on the upswing.
It would be a fascinating contest, because here, we have a generation of players who have never played Test cricket against each other. Only Shoaib Malik and Kamran Akmal among active cricketers have ever played a bilateral Test between these two sides, and neither of them is in Test contention now.
Imagine – Virat Kohli is in danger of ending his Test career without a game against Pakistan!
The only time Kohli toured Pakistan was in 2006, as part of an Under-19 team that played in Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Gujranwala, while the case of Ajinkya Rahane is even more interesting. India’s Test vice-captain actually made his first class debut in Karachi! Even better, he scored a century in that game – 143 for Ranji Trophy champions Mumbai versus Karachi Urban in the Mohammad Nissar Trophy.
The only bilateral series played between these two rivals in the last 13 years, consisted of five limited over games in India at the beginning of 2013, where Nasir Jamshed’s heroics led Pakistan to victory in the three-match ODI series, while the teams split the T20s. There have been no Tests since 2007-2008, when Pakistan last toured India, and that is a sporting tragedy.
India have just beaten Australia in Australia and are the top Test team in the world, while Pakistan are a little bit further down in their development, but improving all the time under the leadership of Misbah ul Haq and Babar Azam, having just beaten South Africa at home as well as away (in white ball cricket) and there is a lot of talent coming through from both countries.
India is a much-admired team across the border for the way it has emerged as a powerhouse in all formats, and the talent that it keeps throwing up. India’s win in Australia was acknowledged with great warmth in Pakistan with most former players as well as the media being fulsome in their praise of the achievement.
A lot of Pakistani batsmen are measured by how they stack up against India’s best and so over the years, various young players – Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Akmal and now Babar Azam have been touted as Pakistan’s answer to Virat Kohli, in whom perhaps they see a player not unlike Pakistani players of yore – brash, Punjabi, combative and never one to take a backward step. In fact, under Kohli, India seems to have become more like those Pakistan teams of the past who never seemed to give up and could pull out wins from the unlikeliest of situations.
The fact that Babar Azam replaced Kohli as the top ODI batsman in the ICC rankings was greeted with more joy than it would otherwise have, simply because of how the Indian captain has become a barometer of batting greatness on the other side of the Radcliffe Line.
And it isn’t just these two – from the time of Partition, India has always looked wistfully towards Pakistan’s fast bowling stocks. Now, for the first time, India has one of the finest pace attacks in the world – one that out-bowled the mighty Australian fast bowlers in their own lair, and Pakistan might perhaps struggle to match them. But a red and white ball series that would pit Bumrah, Shami, Ishant, Siraj, Bhuvneshwar and Umesh against Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Abbas, Hassan Ali, Nasim Shah, Mohammad Hasnain and Wahab Riaz, among others, is an inviting prospect.
Historically, Pakistan have had the better of India in bilateral contests, and for any Indian who has grown up with memories of regular defeats at the hands of their Western neighbours, it would seem that now is the time to catch up on the head-to-head deficit.
Consider this – since their last bilateral series, India led Pakistan 9-2 in international games, with their only two losses coming in an Asia Cup game in 2014 and that Champions Trophy final in England.
If only for this reason, bring on India versus Pakistan. Please!
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