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Indo-Pak cricket without the madness
by Gulu Ezekiel
Nov 02, 2007
It is with a sense of both relief and irony that one awaits the start of the Pakistan tour of India from Monday.

Relief because there is no longer that feverish atmosphere bordering on madness which accompanies an India/Pakistan series now that the two teams have been meeting frequently on the cricket pitch.

Irony as it was that very atmosphere that gave a special edge to such contests.

While it is the frequency that has taken off the hard edge, one must concede that relief is prevalent both in India and Pakistan. Look at the numbers: from 2001 to 2003, the two traditional rivals met just once in an ODI and that was at the 2003 World Cup in South Africa.

That contest at the preliminary stage did not have much bearing on the tournament proper. Yet the cricket world was for months anticipating the encounter in a state of near-hysteria. Sachin Tendulkar himself admitted he had sleepless nights for weeks before it took place at Centurion.

When India returned to Pakistan in 2004 for a full ODI and Test series for the first time since 1989—they had only played ODIs on the 1997 tour--there was also massive anticipation all round. The world media was looking at the series as more than just another sporting event and that put immense pressure on the players.

In all the excitement it was conveniently forgotten that sportspersons should not be expected to play the role of diplomats and politicians. It is beyond the brief of a bunch of young men and only adds to the tension.

Now from 2004 to 2006, the teams have played 22 ODIs and nine Tests and while not quite mundane, fiery passions are thankfully no longer aroused by the prospect of yet another clash.

India beat Pakistan twice in the Twenty/20 World Cup in South Africa including in that memorable final. But as Dhoni as his men learned to their cost last month at the hands of Australia, such a result has little bearing on the 50-over game and certainly not on Test matches.

Still, India should start as favourites. Pakistan’s trauma at their early exit in the 2007 World Cup has been much harsher than India’s and the retirement of Inzamam-ul-Haq leaves a big hole in their batting. The 2-3 reverse at home at the hands of South Africa must have also dented their confidence.

Any way you look at it, there should be plenty of stirring cricket ahead—minus needless tension, of course!

 
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