Pretoria: With the India-Pakistan clash living up to its billing at Centurion Park on Saturday, the clamouring for resumption of cricketing ties between the two neighbouring countries is steadily becoming louder."The people of India and Pakistan want the two teams to have a go at each other more often," former Pakistan captain Rameez Raja, now a television commentator said. "What a joy it would be to watch Shoaib Akhtar and Sachin Tendulkar have a go at each other," he said.But Indian skipper Saurav Ganguly was not sure if resumption of cricket ties between the two countries would mean more interest in cricket in general.
"I am not too sure if regular cricket between the two teams automatically means a build-up in interest. It may or may not happen," he said.But Ganguly just needs to go back on time and get a feel of the atmosphere at Centurion Park on the day of the titanic clash.Everybody present during the match would carry the memory for the rest of his life.
The game had everything - electrifying cricket, tremendous buzz in the stands and organisational skills which received thumbs up from all quarters.India and Pakistan have not exchanged visits since 1998-1999 when Pakistan toured India. The last time the two met before Saturday's clash was in Asia Cup in Dhaka in June 2000. Sachin Tendulkar has played only seven Tests in his 105-Test career against the arch rivals in last 14 years. Among his 309 One-day matches, only 44 have been played against Pakistan.Apart from Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Javagal Srinath and Anil Kumble, no other member of the Indian team has played a Test against Pakistan. The same largely holds true for the team across the border. India last visited Pakistan for a Test series in 1989-90 under K Srikkanth when Tendulkar made his debut.
The Indian government has banned direct cricket links with Pakistan accusing the neighbour of supporting cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, but allows matches with Pakistan in multi-nation events like the World Cup.Even neutrals now cannot help but wonder what regular matches between India and Pakistan could do for the health of cricket, suffering from internal clashes, ego hassles and racial prejudice. "I hope for the sake of this beautiful game that this deadlock between two great cricketing countries is broken for ever," former England player-turned-commentator Robin Jackman said.
"The electrifying atmosphere at the ground, so many flags, chants and the rivalry is all what the sport needs and I am disappointed over politics being mixed with sport." The South Africa-born Jackman is not unfamiliar with political strife. His inclusion in the England team forced the Barbados Test against the West Indies to be cancelled following protests in 1991-92.
Former Pakistan skipper Imran Khan too has called for resumption of cricketing ties between the two countries, stating it would benefit cricket in both the countries.Interest or no-interest, there is little doubt the players feel enormous pressure when they meet each other on a cricket field.Indian cricketers, seniors or juniors, privately admit they were a little nervous before going into Saturday's game against Pakistan. As for resumption of cricket ties, both sides admit it is unlikely it would happen in near future."It doesn't seem a possibility in near future," said Pakistan team manager Shahrayar Khan. "The climate in the two countries is not right." Indian Sports Minister Vikram Verma has also ruled out bilateral cricket ties in near future. PTI