A Case for Resuming India-Pakistan Cricket: An Indian Fan’s Perspective
Before any cricketing encounter between the two great rivals, some die-hard Indian fans, to rile up their Pakistani counterparts point out to them that Pakistan has never won any match against India in any World Cup so far! The typical reaction from the Pakistani side would invariably be to point out to the Indian cricket fans at the over-all head to head record between India and Pakistan in ODIs and Tests.
Of the 131 ODIs played between them so far, India has won 54, while Pakistan has won 73 matches. This slightly one-sided nature of the encounter, at least as is implied from the statistics, owes in no small part to the matches held at Sharjah. And it was not just the fearsome Pakistani pace bowlers – Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Imran Khan and Aaquib Javed – that terrorized the Indian batsmen.
It was also the crooked fingers of the largely partisan umpires and the deafening noise emanating from the stadium filled with Pakistani supporters at this supposedly neutral venue which must have made the Indian cricketers feel like being trapped inside an ancient Roman Colosseum, as a fodder to hungry beasts.
Of course, the importance of the psychological scar left by the last ball six from Javed Miandad’s bat to a Chetan Sharma full toss cannot be overstated. It not only scarred the Indian cricketers and led to defeat after defeat in ODIs for many years, especially at Sharjah, but it also scarred a generation of Indian cricket fans.
Like ODIs, Pakistan is also ahead in the head to head record in Test matches but by only 3 Tests. Out of a total of 59 Test matches played between them, Pakistan has won 12 to India’s 9 and a whopping 38 Tests have ended in a draw. This high number of drawn Test matches is a result of the fear of losing to the ‘enemy’ country which has produced such a large number of boring and tedious draws, continuing up to the 80s.
It is only in the newest format of the game, the T20s that India has a clear edge. India has won 6 out of the 8 T20s played between the two nations. Pakistan has won only one match and 1 match has ended in a tie.
But unlike what Navjot Singh Sidhu once infamously said about statistics by his misplaced misogynistic comparison with miniskirts, statistics may actually hide more than they reveal. A closer look at any statistics with a historical perspective is necessary to arrive at a proper conclusion, especially when we are dealing with a cricketing rivalry that is as old as the one between India and Pakistan.
If one looks at the head to head record between India and Pakistan in the last two decades, it becomes quite clear that India has a clear edge over Pakistan. They have defeated Pakistan more often than they have lost to them.
Unfortunately, the closing of bilateral cricketing ties between the two nations since 2008 has meant that India has not got the opportunity to not just close this gap, but to even edge ahead. Thanks to many ICC tournaments, India and Pakistan have been able to play each other in the ODI and T20 format from time to time. Expectedly, India has won most of those encounters.
India’s 6-1 head to record in T20s is a clear reflection of the chasm in the standard of the two cricketing teams in the last decade or so. In ODIs too, India has won a majority of those matches, with only a few exceptions such as the 2017 Champions trophy final match, which is now rightly regarded by many, including Pakistani great Wasim Akram as a fluke, after Pakistan's two humiliating losses to India in the just concluded Asia Cup.
The more ODIs that Pakistan and India play, the more the gap in the head to head record is going to reduce. With the World Cup coming up and regular ICC tournaments after that, it’s quite possible that in 10 years’ time, India may edge ahead in the ODI head to head record. This is, of course, assuming the current trend continues.
But what of test matches, where Pakistan leads India by 3 Test wins in head to head record? Unlike the limited over formats, there are no ICC multi-nation Test tournaments. India and Pakistan have not faced each other in a Test match since 2008, which incidentally India had won. In fact in the four Test series between India and Pakistan from 2003 to 2008, India had won 2 Test series and Pakistan had won only one. One of those Test series wins for India had famously come on the Pakistani soil, under the captaincy of Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid who stood in for the inured Ganguly in the first two Tests.
In the last 10 years of no Test cricket between the two nations, the cricketing standard and cricketing fortune of the two countries have gone in completely opposite directions. Even though Pakistan did reach the number 1 ranking for a brief period of time, their overall performance has been abysmally poor. Currently, it languishes at number 7 in the rankings. On the other hand, despite a few setbacks overseas, India has largely dominated the cricketing world in all formats of the game. For quite some time, it is perched steadily at the number 1 place in the Test ranking.
One clear indicator of how much superior the Indian Test side is right now, compared to Pakistan, is in the way the Indian pace bowlers have been out-performing their Pakistani counterparts for quite some years. For a long time, the Indian cricket fans used to wonder, with a tinge of envy, at how frequently Pakistan used to produce great fast bowlers, whereas India had hardly any. Of course, the Pakistani cricket fans had the same feeling when it came to Indian batsmen.
But how times have changed! Now, India has not only better batsmen than Pakistan but has a far superior pace bowling unit compared to the bowlers that Pakistan has. Unfortunately for an Indian cricket fan, this contrasting cricketing fortunes of the two countries where a strong Indian cricket team is on an ascendancy, and a Pakistani side struggling to be competitive against teams like Bangladesh, has come at a time of no bilateral cricket between them.
However much one may talk of the glorious uncertainty of the game, it can be stated with quite a certainty that if India and Pakistan had continued to play Test matches in the last 10 years, by now India would have gone ahead in the head to head records in Test matches. In this context, as an ardent Indian fan, one just hopes that if for nothing else, the India-Pakistan bilateral tie resumes, so that India goes ahead of Pakistan in head to head encounters, especially in Test cricket.
Of course, one understands and appreciates the position of the Indian government. But then in matters such as this, often heart rules over the mind.