Amritbani : Cricket as a CBM

Amrit Mathur

New Delhi:

India is 135 to Pakistan’s 177 in the FIFA rankings but the situation in cricket, with only ten competing, is not as depressing. India is stuck around the middle of the ladder and Pakistan,

a respectful younger brother, is perhaps a step lower. Given the strong emotional surge of peace and friendship currently blowing across the LOC, what would happen if the two decided to join hands? As any observer of political climate will point out, these are momentous times for India and Pakistan. It is cricket that triggered this change by creating the environment that now sweeps from Siachen to Sind. Among all the Confidence Building Measures (CBM), cricket is the strongest and the most potent. Perhaps the time has come for it to play a second innings, keep the momentum going and take peace to its logical conclusion.

Could not the two Boards come together to put up a common front? This will cause a serious rethink, and a possible storm, in cricketing geo-politics. A combined Indo-Pak eleven will see Inzamam emerge from the pavilion after Dravid and Sachin, a prospect guaranteed to give bowlers cardiac trouble.

But beyond this obvious sporting gain, there are wider benefits of a possible Indo-Pak cricket alliance. Cricket will prosper thanks to the support of India’s rich corporates and the presence of its stars, powerful suns around whom cricket’s economy revolves. But attached to this flood of funds is the flip side of Indian cricket: with money and stars comes intrusive media interest which covers cricket, circulates gossip and runs programmes during prime time identifying culprits after a summary trial whose procedures would not meet the approval of the Human Rights Commission. Pakistan is expected to play an equal part. It will give us bats from Sialkot, expertise in holding 20/20 matches and setting up a corporate office. From our neighbours we will take less-ons in commercialising domestic cricket as they have moved ahead and got the Lahore Lions to compete with the Peshawar Panthers, both teams sponsored by commercial houses.

Their most significant contribution, however, would be to add spice to cricket, inject excitement and drama in a sport celebrated for its uncertainty. Pakistan cricket has a special flavour, and a rich tradition, of thrills and spills both in the board room and the dressing room, where predicting the future is more difficult than reading what has emerged from Shane Warne’s hand. Pakistan cricket is like the presidentship of Italy, the administration is marked by continued injection of fresh blood and new ideas. A mouth-watering prospect, but India and Pakistan won’t unite. Only, they will push the peace process forward.

Amrit Mathur is media manager of BCCI