Somewhere in the Union home ministry lies a request from the BCCI that begs for an urgent answer to a very simple question: Can India play cricket with Pakistan in Sri Lanka? What should have been an easy, and a quick, “yes” is now seeming like a belaboured “maybe”. This isn’t a rant on red-tapeism, it’s about a government that is generally uncertain about Pakistan and specifically undecided about playing cricket with that country. This policy has seen the cricketing relationship between the old rivals go from bad to worse. India-Pakistan encounters had already become rare, Pakistan’s cricketers were kept away from the IPL, and now even commentators and umpires have been made to feel unsafe here.
Ironically, it’s the BCCI that is getting the flak. It is being accused of asking the wrong question at the wrong time — 26/11 has just been marked. But WhatsApp groups, twitter handles and television debates — the modern day rooftops that accommodate every high-decibel rabble-rouser — don’t care about cricketing MoUs or the importance of Pakistan to cricket in the subcontinent or to the global game played by less than 10 nations. The government should know better than to allow them the casting vote. Prime ministers and presidents have often been seen on the sidelines of India-Pakistan games, they have beamed as they passed shining trophies to champions. These frames have helped them in building images and “optics”. But cricket engagements shouldn’t only be used for political convenience. And they certainly can’t carry the burden of a thaw or spike in the thorny India-Pakistan relationship.
This unwarranted impasse has aggravated the pain of the cricket fan. India and Pakistan last played a Test in 2007. Their only ODI interaction this year has been on a neutral venue, under ICC supervision, at the World Cup. Cricket’s most-storied rivalry has been sorely missed.