I am a great believer that politics should stay away from cricket. I feel no issue is so big that it can’t be solved if you sit across the table. It’s not a big deal. I feel very sad to say this but politicians of our countries, instead of reducing the gap between the two nations, they cherish the animosity. Life would have been much easier if our politicians had stayed away from cricket.
I personally feel cricket has become a trade. Recently we had a chess tournament in Lahore, 18 of your Indian contingent was here. Now for the SAFF championship, the Pakistan football team is travelling to India. If other sports can go, then why not cricket? Stop this cat-and-mouse game. Again I am requesting our politicians, aap apni politics alag rakhe, cricket ko involve na kare (You keep your politics separate from our game, don’t mix it with cricket).
It would have been a great decision if India had travelled to Pakistan for the Asia Cup. Unfortunately, it has not happened.
What is this hybrid model? I can’t understand it. In a very weird way Pakistan has been given four or five matches and the rest of the series will be held in Sri Lanka. It doesn’t make any sense. During the World Cup again, we will see Pakistan playing their matches someplace else, if they stick with this hybrid model proposition.
Do you think cricket can survive without India and Pakistan? Our cricketers are great crowd-pullers, the ICC made tons of money from an India-Pakistan match. There is no relevance of any ICC cricket tournament if India and Pakistan are not playing against each other. My only request to our politicians is that instead of drawing out their swords, they should let the two teams play. Let the cricketers meet. Let them learn from each other. Let them travel.
Cricket se hi pyar mohabbat badh sakti hai aur koi tareeka nahi hai. Ye chand log wo darwaaze bhi band karna chahte hai (Cricket is the only thing that can reduce animosity and can spread love and friendship between two countries. That’s the only way but unfortunately, few people from both sides of the border want to shut down the door of only hope).
I have always maintained that India and Pakistan should play regularly. India and Pakistan must play bilateral series every two years. The BCCI and PCB should use cricket as a golden goose. Imagine the interest Test cricket will receive if India and Pakistan start playing regularly. People will remember the performance. We talk about the Chennai Test when the entire crowd gave the Pakistan team a standing ovation or Viru (Virender Sehwag) becoming Sultan of Multan.
In our time, after the end of day’s play, a few senior players from Pakistan used to go to India’s dressing room to have tea; next day the Indian team would visit our dressing room. Those talks used to be very fruitful for the young cricketers. If Zaheer Abbas, Bishan Bedi, Sunil Gavaskar, Imran Khan are sharing their experiences, what else do you need? The current generation will never be able to see the cricketing rivalry between Bishan Singh Bedi vs Zaheer Abbas, Sunil Gavaskar vs Javed Miandad, Kapil Dev vs Imran Khan, Sachin Tendulkar vs Wasim Akram. In the last decade, we missed what could have been a great contest between Virat Kohli vs Mohammed Amir and if the situation remains the same we won’t be able to see how Shubman Gill faces the inswinging deliveries from Shaheen Shah Afridi. We must play regularly for the sake of our next generation.
Social media, YouTubers, former cricketers and TV anchors have also played an important role in spreading the nuisance. It is very damaging. One should not listen to such people, who only spew venom. Every Tom, Dick and Harry has become a cricket expert. They will shoot a video, will talk nonsense and will put that on social media for few likes and comments. The YouTubers have become influential now and for the viewership, they would do anything and I don’t know who will control them. Their existence is unhealthy for our cricketing relationship because most of them do not know about the game.
I have been to India so many times. I have played there as a coach, as a captain, I coached the Punjab Ranji Trophy team for two years. I never felt that I was in some other country.. hum ek hi hai (We are one). I have made so many lifelong friends. Cricket is the only thing that can bury the hatchet and bring people closer.
I still have a great relationship with Bishan Singh Bedi and Sunil Gavaskar. Over the years, our relationship has gone from strength to strength. They are like my extended family. Bishan Bedi came to Kartarpur to meet me. Our families met, it was such an emotional moment. I don’t think there should be any restrictions. I hope a day will come when we will not need a visa to meet our friends.
Cricketers always have a mutual love and respect for each other and no politician will be able to eradicate that. Even now, we play very few matches but the way our cricketers greet each other after the match, it is so good to see. They have maintained that historical tradition of brotherhood.
As a cricket lover, I still have hope that wo subah kabhi toh aayegi (That dawn shall come someday).
Intikhab Alam is a former Pakistan captain and coach. He spoke to Pratyush Raj.