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Monday, March 28, 2011

All roads lead to Mohali - India Vs Pakistan - Semi Finals on 30th March 2011

All roads now lead to the city of Mohali, named after the eldese son of Guru Gobind Singh, Sahibzda Ajit Singh (House of Sahibzada Ajit Singh). History has it that when Mughal forces besieged Anandpur in 1705 Ajig Singh, a veteran of many wars,  displayed his qualities of courage and steadfastness.  After a long stalemate, the Mughals assured that they would let the population of the town unharmed and take only the Fort of Anandpur. But they violated – Ajit Singh fought bravely against heavy odds with a small group defying a huge army.  Ajit singh grimly laid his life in the battle. 
The Politicians, industrial heavy weights, IPL owners everyone would be there – all hotesl within 25 km radius have already been booked and in the usual scramble, genuine fans would be disappointed and would not be able to get a ticket for the match. 

Cricket Fans would be delighted at the prospect of India maintaining their unbeaten streak over Pak and a win over Pak is not merely a passage to Finals but much more than that for them. It would be a great encounter for the Cricket fans, a dream for the business of the game – a contest between rivals would benefit every one commercially. 
But there is absolutely nothing for the Nation than viewing it as a mere semi final match much as against any other opponent.  Indians beat the reigning champion Aussies and broke their winning streak of 3 WC in a row and perhaps would play Lanka (or Kiwi) – will there by any other significance than that of a major match ??

It is the 10th WC – there have been matches before and there will be matches after – but there is very big media hype of the India Pakistan encounter on Wednesda to be "mother of all battles".  Sure whenever India plays Pakistan there is bound to be an air of stiffness, pressure for every one including the not so well informed spectator – it is war. There is another term ‘cricket diplomacy’ which would circulate broadly in media now.

BUT is not a Cricket a game – in fact the Indian Cricket team is more a representation of the Board of Cricket Control of India than the Nation….  In more than a way, this sort of hype and a match of this type is bound to give more troubles…..    The Indian PM Manmohan Singh has invited his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani and he has accepted the invitation.  He will see the match at Mohali.  There are reports that besides the PM atleast five sitting governors of Pakistan are likely to be put up in the guest house, besides half-a dozen Union ministers.

Reports quoted Pak  President Asif Zardari’s spokesperson  as welcoming the invitation but refused to state anything on the possibility of talks on any issues that strains the neighbours.  The  Punjab governor and Chandigarh administrator Shivraj Patil may host the dinner on behalf of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani at the Raj Bhawan here if the PMO gives its clearance.

There has been stalemate in Indo Pak ties after the fall out Islamabad last year.   It is stated that the Pak PM would  visit Mohali but would not visit New Delhi – what is welcome in this limited position is not known.  Bilateral talks between the countries are required but should Nation be so overtly wary of cricket happenings ! and what makes news in a person, be it the PM of neighbouring country visiting to view the match ?  In what way it serves the Nation  ??

Some would jump to say that it would generate a congenial environment conveniently forgetting that there was trouble across the border after the bus diplomacy.  Remember there has been no cooperation from the Pak side in bringing in 26/11 guilty to book, remember the skirmishes that keep happening near the frontier, remember the incursions into the land, remember Kandahar hijack and remember cross border abetted terrorism – there are major issues than the result of a cricket match.

This is a match between the Nations after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.  Anyway this is not the first time.  In 1987, Zia Ul Haq visited Jaipur at the instance of Rajiv Gandhi.  In 2005, Genl Pervez Mushraff watched ODI at Kotla.  Apart from the incursions, there have been reports of overstayal of missing of Pak citizens who had come in the garb of seeing cricket match, what potential harm these persons who sneaked could do is worrisome.

Dialogue between the leaders,  at Home secretary level and measures in peace harmony are all welcome – this symbolic trip of seeing a cricket match is not going to add value to this, is my feeling.  Negotiations with civil authorities , cooperation and credible engagement with military leadership, tangible foreign policy, diplomacy, belief and mutual trust are all needed for peaceful coexistence. 

Due to all the hype, there would extra pressure on Dhoni, Sachin, Sehwag and on Afridi and his men too.  Remember again, this only a  cricket match.  In all India has played  Pakistan 119 times starting from 1978, a series where Bishan Bedi won a match and forfeited one.  Indians have won 46 and lost 69.

In WC, Indians have played Pakistanis in 1987, 1992, 1999 & 2003 and have beaten them convincingly on all the encounters.  So far cricket fans, it should be a great match but nothing more than a cricket match…..

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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