Sunday in the Asia Cup, the two cricketing powerhouses will face off. This may be the first of three matches in the tournament if the gods favor the television executives.
The rivalry between India and Pakistan has often been more passionate among fans than among players. On social media, supporters have waged arguments that a victory in a cricket match is unmistakable evidence that one political system, religion, or country is better than another.
Every time the teams of India and Pakistan have faced off, there have been two different games. So the game taking place on the field has two great teams of players competing against one another and giving professional pride a front-row seat.
But, off it, the game represents something else—war without the shooting, in the immortal words of George Orwell.
At the World T20 in October 2021, Pakistan defeated India by 10 wickets in their most recent meeting.
The sole Muslim player on the Indian squad, bowler Mohammed Shami, was cruelly ridiculed. He had numbers that were typical for a T20 game: 3.5-0-43-0. Shami, though, was the perfect candidate for those looking for scapegoats.
It has been relatively quiet on social media in the days leading up to the match on Sunday. Still, it will be a while before an India-Pakistan encounter devolves into “just another game.”
Shaheen Afridi, Pakistan’s fast bowler, won’t be available on Sunday because of a knee injury. Afridi won the Man of the Encounter award in the World T20 match between the two sides with three wickets.
Waqar Younis, a former captain of the Pakistani national team, tweeted last week that Shaheen’s injury was a significant relief for the Indian top-order batters.
Irfan Pathan, a former Indian athlete, said, “It’s a comfort to other teams that Bumrah isn’t competing in this Asia Cup!” Jasprit Bumrah, an Indian fast bowler, has a back ailment.
This conversation pales in comparison to some recent tweets from players and supporters. It’s a good thing if things are becoming a little monotonous. However, it could be asking too much.
Enough athletes, supporters, and television executives feed the flames for partisan, personal, and professional motives.
But to contrast these interactions, there was the one between the two teams’ top hitters.
When India’s Virat Kohli was having a difficult time in England last month, Pakistani star Babar Azam sent him a message: “This will also pass. Be persistent.”
Kohli had a similarly enthusiastic response: “I’m grateful. Continue to shine and ascend. I want the best for you.”
Due to political considerations, India and Pakistan only face each other in multi-team events outside of their own nations, giving these games an advantage.
In addition, these events allow for the discharge of pent-up emotions.
Though just among fans. Players are more rational. The Pakistan Cricket Board published footage from the scene showing players from the two nations warmly welcoming and asking after one another’s families. After that, it’s business as usual for them.
The distraction brought about by Kohli’s poor performance may be one element that accounts for the absence of customary enthusiasm in the lead-up to the first Asia Cup game.
The former India captain and starting batsman has featured in only four of India’s previous 24 T20 matches and hasn’t reached a century in international cricket since November 2019.
After taking a little vacation to relax and recover, Kohli’s return to the squad is eagerly anticipated.
The Indian team’s supporters had been hoping for a significant victory-related contribution from Kohli. Instead, as he approaches his 100th T20 international, he will join Ross Taylor of New Zealand as the only players to have played 100 games in each of cricket’s three forms.
At least one major magazine has written a cover piece analyzing Kohli’s performance, and other publications have also gotten specialists to weigh in.
According to one source, 1,009 days have passed since his most recent century. But, of course, none of this will matter if Kohli regains his form during the Asia Cup.
The narrative inside a story has overshadowed the India-Pakistan match and the Asia Cup itself.
The 15th Asia Cup, which featured six teams divided into two groups of three each, was initially scheduled to take place in Sri Lanka but was shifted to the UAE due to that nation’s political and economic climate.
The teams from each group compete against one another in the “Super Four,” and the two winning teams will face off in the championship game on September 11.