In India, cricket isn’t just a sport. It is a religion, where cricketers are treated as demigods, where every victory is celebrated as a festival and each defeat bemoaned. For years, it has been one single thread that brought Indians together across caste, creed, religion, gender and political affiliations. And these emotions are at insanely high levels when we are playing against our arch-rivals Pakistan. So high is the excitement and thrill quotient around India-Pak games that not just India and Pakistan, but the whole world watches these games with bated breath. This can be proven by the fact that the last time India played Pak in World Cup 2015, it was said to be the most-watched match in the history of the game.
The above facts clearly outline the significance associated with the Ind-Pak cricket matches, and more the significance, more the business. That’s what must have ran into the minds of the PCB and BCCI officials when they met to discuss the possibility of a bilateral series between India and Pakistan. Ind-Pak bilateral series definitely means huge money that will financially benefit both Indian and Pak cricket boards immensely, but it is clearly a bad idea for a few important reasons :-
Bilateral Ties are in the worst phase since 1971
India and Pakistan are going to a very bad phase as far as bilateral ties are concerned. We suspended bilateral talks at all levels of the two governments post the Uri Attack and reduced the talks to bare multilateral platforms and critical issues like the UN or the ICJ. Times when Pak regularly indulges in cross-border violations, sends terrorists across the border to spread unrest in Kashmir, beheads our soldiers and mutilates their bodies is definitely not the appropriate time to rekindle cricketing ties with the country. Millions of Indians are mourning for the loss of their soldiers and families have been shattered by such ghastly acts by Pak every day and times like these warrant show of solidarity with our soldiers and their families and playing cricket with the same country is in direct contrast to the popular sentiments of people. If Afghanistan can cancel all the cricketing ties with Pakistan post the recent Kabul attacks, why can’t we do the same? What do we lose by not playing a bilateral series with Pak?
Popular Indian sentiment is against Pakistan
Even if we keep aside the popular sentiment against Pakistan in country for a moment, we must respect the efforts that the Indian government is making to isolate and expose Pakistan on every international forum. India is putting up a very strong front against Pakistan at an international level for all the terrorist activities that Pakistan supports and encourages against its neighbors. Playing a bilateral series with Pakistan around the same time makes the government look weak on the international fora. It creates a perception that India is not determined enough to take Pakistan on and somewhere gives Pakistan an idea that it can get away with anything and later come back under the pretext of cultural and sports ties. Remember, South Africa was boycotted by the ICC from participating in any international tournaments during apartheid, then why cannot we work to ban Pakistan for its support to terrorism?
Financial Isolation through Cricket
A bilateral series between Ind-Pak will no doubt be a big financial success, with both the countries making huge profits out of the series. The last time India toured Pak in 2003, PCB earned a profit to the tune of 200 crores. It is important to note that PCB had almost gone bankrupt before that series and that series almost bailed it out of this bankruptcy. PCB is in a similar condition today and desperately needs a strong and rich cricketing nation to bail it out and what is a better way than an emotionally-charged and action-packed India-Pakistan series. Not just PCB, even the PAK government will earn handsomely through taxes and other revenues as this series will trigger a lot of business activities at the local, state and national level. At times when Pakistan is struggling to get investments into the country (except China), India does not want to become the one to lend a helping hand when it is one big reason for Pakistan’s financial isolation worldwide.
Safety of players
It is an established fact that Pak is an unstable state. The volatile nature of Pakistani politics and its tacit support of terrorism has rendered the country in a state of constant chaos. This was visible during the attack on Sri Lankan cricketers during a Test series in 2009 and the most recent being a bomb blast in Lahore during the second season of the Pak Super League in 2017. After the incident, Luke Wright, an English cricketer came out openly about it and said, “Why should we play when no one else has done it, even cricketers of international reputation are afraid of going in there”. This goes on to prove that Pakistan is the last place on earth where you’d want to go and play cricket, especially the Indian players, given the hostility between the two nations.
However, India can still engage with Pak at multilateral series that are not organized by Pakistan or in Pakistan. Not playing international tournaments like the Champion’s Trophy or the World Cup just because Pakistan is a part of it is like saying India should not be part of UN just because Pakistan is also a part of it. On the other hand, India can actually use such international platforms to further isolate Pakistan like we do in the UN. For example, Pak lost the chance to co-host the World Cup of 2011 due to terrorist attack in 2009 and thus lost a major chunk of the revenue generated during World Cup which ended up in India’s kitty.