Two States have been at loggerheads with each other for decades together. Four wars (1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999) have been waged between the two but no good achieved yet. Instead, lot of blood has been shed in the name of nationalism. The animosity is manifested not only by the governments of the states but it has also filtered down into the psyche of people, of both the countries. The hate politics has polarised people of both sides to the extent that they see everything through the prism of politics, whenever they happen to come face to face, be it games, converging at a conference, invitation to a TV show, and most importantly in a game of cricket that has become less of a game and more of politics.
Otherwise, all these events customarily promote brotherhood, amity, peace, reconciliation and harmony. The feeling of loathing and detestation is so entrenched in people’s psyche that they forget that such events are the indicators of peace and brotherhood.
Cricket is the game preferred over all others in the South Asian subcontinent. People in both India and Pakistan are diehard followers of the game. Excelling in the game of cricket is seen as the benchmark for power between the two political poles. One’s victory over the other is perceived as success of one’s political ideology, military power and technology. Winning a game of cricket is even attributed to the success of the political regime of the country.
Besides playing an instrumental role in keeping the body physically and mentally sound, cricket also plays the ethical role of bringing about integration of the people of the world without the denominations of caste, colour, religion, race and so on. It is a social event percolating through the social life of the people. Cricket is a platform where people from different regions with different ethnicities assemble to show mutual respect, fellow feeling, and goodwill. We may not be wrong to say that the game of cricket is a social institution.
A sporting event promotes universal brotherhood and gives one a sense of belonging to a larger global community. Sportsmen have always been very successful as ambassadors of goodwill for any country. They have fans and admirers across the borders. Nelson Mandela’s inspirational quote, “Sport has the power to change the world”, comes to mind. Sport has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sports can create hope where there was once only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.
Giving arch-rivals India and Pakistan more opportunities to play cricket will be an opportunity for peace. Since 1947 all the talks at the diplomatic level have ended in stalemate, so cricket can be used a second diplomatic thread that can bind the people of the two nations together. A game of cricket promotes positive thinking that can help galvanise people from across the border to mend the fractured relations between the two countries. Cricket can be used to mobilise the masses and unify the people of Pakistan and India around a common cause of everlasting peace and stability in the Asian subcontinent.
We have a number of instances before us that indicate that people from across the border are desirous of peace and brotherhood. Last year during the T20 world cup, players of both the teams won the hearts of millions of people across the border when they were seen exchanging pleasantries, embracing each other, exuding gestures of amity and peace. The former Australian batsman Mathew Hayden could not help saying, “The thing that inspired me the most out of the performance was the fantastic sporting brotherhood”, when Pakistan beat India in the T20 world cup. Indian captain Virat Kohli embraced Mohammad Rizwan soon after Pakistan romped to a 10-wicket win. Dhoni was no less eager to exchange words with Shoaib Milk, Babar Azam and Rizwan in a friendly disposition. The Pakistani players also reciprocated the warm feelings.
In the Asia Cup2022, when people who had come to watch the India-Pak match could not get the tickets owing to paucity of seats, the hoteliers extended their generosity to make arrangements for the Pak-Indian fans under one single roof. Big LCDs were installed for the fans to watch the match together. The fans shared their country’s cuisine prepared in the hotel with each other. It was a precipitation of cross-cultural interaction, though one that more or less resembled each other. It was all witnessed in an atmosphere of mutual respect and coexistence. This desire of people across the border to get together is a litmus test for everlasting peace between the two neighbouring countries. Love has an affinity with peace which hostility doesn’t have.
So, the two neighbouring states had better begin again where they had left off. Resumption of bilateral cricket series would be an ice breaker to bridge the gulf of mistrust and disbelief which has been growing between the two countries for long. Cricket at this juncture would be an olive branch that they must accept, sooner the better. The game has the potential to bring people of the daggers-drawn countries towards unanimous support for lasting peace. Even scientific studies have shown that games stimulate our body to produce feel-good hormones and neurochemicals that neutralise hatred. Cricket elicits a strong feeling of mutual respect and goodwill even if the two playing teams belong to hostile countries. The game of cricket can be infectious in its influence on minds that have been fed on antipathy.