Over the years, the build up to Indo-Pak clashes have evoked nostalgia and profound memories. Somehow, that seems to be missing this time round.
So, it’s time for the big India-Pakistan clash again, this time at the 2018 Asia Cup. For starters, the expectations are not high from India, the No. 1 Test team that lost 4-1 in England. Different format? Well, then expect worse after their lacklustre showing against the minnows Hong Kong. The quality of cricket on offer too isn’t as enticing. With the exception of the Rohit Sharma vs Mohammad Amir contest, there really isn’t much to look forward to when it comes to spicy battles. Add to the fact that Virat Kohli is missing from action, which means the excitement volumes are even lower. It will be rather surprising if the match turns out to be a pulsating contest.
Contrast this to India-Pakistan clashes of the past. The 1996 World Cup game instantly comes to mind. The grand build-up, the humungous expectations, and the anticipation of two nations going to ‘war’. Only a 90s kid would know what it means to experience the real thrill of an Indo-Pak match. Without being nasty, one can only pity the current generation of Indian fans, from whom excitement means ‘pulsating’ IPL matches. But do we blame them? After all, Kohli plays the entire domestic T20 league, and takes a break from playing for India. Sign of changing times for sure!
In spite of spectacular emergence of technology like live streaming bringing matches directly to your mobile, the pure joy of an Indo-Pak contest seems lost. Those heart-beating moments — counting hours, minutes and seconds to the match, sneaking into the neighbour’s house who had cable TV, or if nothing else, trying to tune the transistor to the radio station playing the match – made an Indo-Pak battle a real joy to watch.
The men involved in the contests also added to the dazzling drama. The iconic Venkatesh Prasad-Aamir Sohail face-off will never have an encore, nor is Sachin Tendulkar-like brazen assault on Shoaib Akhtar likely to be repeated. The most recent instance of a face-off in an India-Pakistan contest was when Gautam Gambhir and Shahid Afridi bumped into each other, and refused to back off. That, however, was more a case of two individuals trying to boost their egos more than anything else, and wouldn’t find a place in the hall of fame when it comes to unforgettable Indo-Pak moments.
Coming back to today’s match, I would be glad to be proven wrong. But, the prospect of an Indian team battered and bruised in England, yet refusing to let go of their misconceptions, taking on a quality Pakistan side, albeit one that lacks the flair of teams of the past, isn’t something great fun to look forward to.
PS: Is it just a coincidence that this India-Pakistan match is being played on a Wednesday and not a ‘Super’ Saturday or Sunday?