India Vs Pakistan And The Cricket Melee
Fans are unsatiated, want another final encounter between the two
Two India versus Pakistan matches down, one settles scores. Fans seem unsatiated as they want another Asia Cup final encounter between the two warring neighbours, this time in the final. However, there has been plenty in the background to throw light on not only what these two teams bring to the table but also, how they have rocked the cricket world ahead of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023.
The India Vs Pakistan contests are expectedly turning heads. But some questionable decisions have raised the hackles even amongst India’s own. As cricket questions the veracity of identity issues for the rest of the teams stemming out of some baffling decisions made at both, the Asia Cup and the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023, it does put the whole world of cricket under the lens.
It took three days and two matches to draw a clear winner between the two teams, not because the competition was that stiff or close in the end. Inclement weather in Sri Lanka has kept the ground staff on their toes as it has the players of both teams looking to get to the pitch and create or recreate history as the case may be.
The decision to add a day to the contest, a reserved day not scheduled on the original itinerary made waves and churned waters. In an unexpected move, the Asian Cricket Council (which is currently under the chairmanship of the BCCI and Jay Shah) decided that a reserve day would be added to the second India versus Pakistan match, which was a Super Fours encounter.
That this was not a rule followed across the board, in that there was no reserve day allocated for when Sri Lanka and Bangladesh took to the field seems like gross bias and a telling scenario of whether the organisers and broadcasters of the Asia Cup thought the sport should be heading.
Venkatesh Prasad, former India’s fast medium bowler, was amongst the most vocal to call out the disparity, taking to his social media page to let out a litany of woes with regard to the BCCI and to point this out in particular.
In response to the Sri Lanka cricket board, the Bangladesh Cricket Board posted rather eerily similar messages, essentially signing off their rights and acquiescing to the late hour decision.
Their message read: “The reserve day for the India-Pakistan contest of the Super 11 Asia Cup Super 4 stage was taken in consultation with all four member boards of the Super 4 competing teams. Accordingly the ACC effectively revised the playing conditions of the tournament to effect the agreed upon change. #AsiaCup2023”
Prasad lashed out early at the leaked rumours, and then again when the news was confirmed, “If true, this is absolute shamelessness. The organisers have made a mockery and it is unethical to have a tournament with rules being different for the other two teams.”
Prasad might have landed himself in hot water in the manner in which he deleted some posts or criticised anybody, in general or particularly, but it was hard not to see his point which has been echoed in whispers in cricket corridors.
Directly addressing the Sri Lanka and Bangladesh cricket boards and their seemingly limp response, he asked as did the baffled cricket fraternity, “What was the pressure to agree on this unreasonable demand, when you aren’t getting a reserve day for your own matches? Why so much generosity to ensure India v Pakistan isn’t washed out even if it costs your own team a chance to qualify. Can you please explain…”
It was the question on everyone’s lips. Sri Lanka stepped in as hosts to ease the deadlock between India and hosts Pakistan. Travel logistics and hardships were added to what has already reduced the Asia Cup to a formality.
Does this move, while perhaps making commercial sense and broadcaster pressure maybe despite Wasim Akram being vocal on air that the commentators were not to be asked these questions seemingly like a directive that has come from somewhere, not further dilute the Asia Cup?
If Bangladesh and Sri Lanka cricket fans do not have the right to see their players similarly take the field on a reserve day should their own respective contests be washed out, why even call it the Asia Cup? Is it only a proxy India Pakistan bilateral series?
Was the money spinner contest the only reason in the first place that this whole expedition of the Asia Cup was undertaken after a significant pull and tug backdoors affair? What happened to world domination from a region that plays the sport fanatically at cricket grounds as it does in street gullies?
Is it sacrifice the maximum for the few? How does that differentiate what has happened on the global level of the sport for decades? What a travesty is being made of the other two teams, even if India and Pakistan have worthily earned their digs.
Prasad then took it a step further and this time playing doomsday predictor asking for weather to play spoilsport so that other teams in the tournament were not subjected to this indignity. “In the name of justice, will only be fair if it (Super 4 match) is abandoned the first day, may it rain harder on the second day and the malicious plans not succeed,” Prasad said.
Well, rain did come pelting about 24 overs into India’s inning batting first and it ensured there was no further play on day one. But day two, despite weather interruptions, ensured a result was possible as India walked away with a 228 run victory and Pakistan looked whitewashed even before the result in the manner in which they went about their batting, chasing a historic score in excess of 350 runs.
Team India did end up taking the field for the third consecutive day with the contest against Sri Lanka pressing up against them. And to the team’s credit, their batting has answered a few queries, with a few ringers. Had the results been adverse, would it have added more pepper to the soup and is that the spicy affair an unsettled team India line up would have wanted in the run up to the ICC Cricket World Cup?
The good news for India is that their top order batsmen have looked in good nick. KL Rahul even found a place as it was stated by Rohit Sharma that Shreyas Iyer had pulled up with a back spasm just ahead of the Super 4 clash against Pakistan.
Given the lengthy and confessional discussion amongst the commentary panel about faking back spasms back in the day as Wasim Akram admitted so frankly to, might it have been a talking point or mere coincidence and a potential field day for the conspiracy theorists had the case been made to take the issue of favouritism for K.L Rahul further and Iyer being held back by a convenient excuse by the team management?
To Rahul’s defence, no matter how the opportunity might have been created or manufactured, he pulled out a century which also brings to the table the point that while his talent has not been in question, his consistency or the lack of it has been. One innings alone would not prove a point, not with the attrition filled World Cup around the corner as he too returns from injury.
With glove keeping a saviour to keep him in the team in the absence of Rishabh Pant, with Ishan Kishan showing prowess with both, it seemed the only logical question was to play both of them. But where does Shreyas Iyer feature in this melee of favouritism versus talent?
Coming back to the larger issue at hand, at the height of sounding cliché, about the Asia Cup, the World Cup and any series in general, are cricket boards now becoming sell-outs themselves simply because they cannot sell out tournaments and stadiums on their own and need the largesse of more traditional rivals to share the honey pot?
The writing on the wall is rather grim.
Prasad did not mince words about why the World Cup operations were being run,“There is no debate and doubt on the fact that we have messed up the lead up to the World Cup. Unreasonable delay in schedule in the first place and if that wasn’t enough changing the schedule hampering 5 matches in the process, if that wasn’t enough a completely non-transparent and inefficient ticket system only encouraging black marketeers.
“We have a good team and are strong contenders for the World Cup but we need genuine fans inside the stadium cheering for the team and their experience needs to be far smoother and easier than what it has been and for that the BCCI needs to do far better than they have done so far…”
Where it felt like there were personal stakes in the matter was when the post began on the right note and then seemed to indicate murky waters underlying it, “It is a proud moment to be hosting a World Cup and it should have been a great time for the fans but these difficulties for the fans doesn’t look unplanned. It’s time we wake up and not make this incompetence a norm just because ‘Yes Men’ around don’t want to speak up. It is a matter of national prestige.”
These are indeed national interests at heart and the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of din, twelve years after India won its only World Cup level tournament after a lengthy gap of 28 years, speaks volumes.
As if to evidence this point, the World Cup continues to rock the boat and it is rough weather in the run up here as well.
In another ire drawing scenario on the sidelines of the Asia Cup, has been the shoddy ticket selling business of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023. From website crashes to long waiting hours and to tickets not being issued, the fans have been hopping mad about a tournament that has been allowed to sit on the sidelines without as much as a set schedule 60 days prior to the event.
With nearly a fifth of the changes of the schedule also showing logistical nightmares that were either overlooked or worse still, not taken cognizance of, this was a case of bad reputation from the cricket board that is the richest, and the most powerful.
The fact that the BCCI has pulled off the IPL both, in India and abroad, with next to no hitch has raised several questions about the BCCI’s real interests, the motivation of keeping 100 percent profits from the IPL versus a lion’s share from the ICC Cricket World Cup forming the crux of the argument.
Although Pakistan cricket board’s reluctance to come on board to sending its team for the World Cup has been conveniently bandied around as the PCB did hold a tit-for-tat threat over India declining to travel to Pakistan for the Asia Cup, it has to be asked whether the BCCI was making a case to not being considered as hosts in the future or whether in their exalted position, they are subtly, and yet not so subtly, sending the message of where they think the World Cup stands.
It would be a shame because if the Asia Cup has shown anything, and while this debate is limited to the India Vs Pakistan contests alone, there is an appetite for humdinger encounters amongst fierce rivals. And the idea of a contest on a big stage only further whets the appetite.
It explains why the ACC has chosen to so controversially and brazenly add a reserve day only for one contest and also, why the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023, despite this unprecedented scenario of botched organisation, delayed schedules and ack of fanfare, might still the right boxes when it comes to making the big bucks.
The worry though remains to what happens to the rest of the tournament and more importantly, the respect and identity factor for the rest of the teams. Are they too willing to subvert their identity of being worthy contenders in the name of a few, albeit hefty, bucks? A rain afflicted tournament has provided cricket plenty of food for thought inconveniently before a home ICC Cricket World Cup.