How India vs Pakistan can unite us again
Cricket cannot solve the Kashmir issue but it can certainly help us come together for a game that we all love.
Like thousands of Indians, I was hooked to the social media for the past one week - watching and reading everything that has been unfolding in one of the best institutions of India.
In many ways, it has gone too far.
Cricket can unite us again
As a cricket lover, I have always cherished watching us play with our neighbours. Although the Talibanization of Pakistan and hateful remarks from few of our politicians have distracted the masses, there have been attempts from both sides to bring these two nations together through cricket.
The other day, when I got the opportunity to interact with a peace lover, sports lover, and fun lover from Pakistan, we discussed things from how Islam is wrongly projected as a religion of terrorists to Pakistan's chances of winning the 2016 Twenty20 World Cup.
This is because cricket has always played a major role in opening hearts and in the India-Pakistan peace process. So when Virat Kohli will face Wahab Riaz in Dhaka, it will affect everyone, right from a taxi driver hearing the commentary on the radio to the soldier guarding our border.
Some will watch the match on their campus while some will stand outside a television store and applaud the fall of every Pakistani wicket. Cricket has indeed acted as a catalyst to connect us.
We have done that in the past and we can do that again.
The rivalry is unique
Winning and losing will matter on 27 February when Dhoni and company will lock horns with one of our fiercest rivals in the Asia Cup at the Shere Bangla National Stadium.
Whatever happens, that day will be short-lived. With the news of ceasefire violation and infiltration, the cricket victory will be soon forgotten. But matters like foreign affairs and complex political issues are beyond us.
What I do know is, when on 19 March the two nations will slog it out again at Dharamsala during the 2016 ICC World Twenty20, the contest will be watched again not just by us, but also by the soldiers on both sides of the border.
Let's not perceive the match as a war
Cricket matches between the two countries in the past achieved high levels of bitterness and hostility. But there have been memorable moments like the Pakistani captain, Asif Iqbal, receiving a rousing applause from a full house Eden Gardens audience after his last innings.
Who can forget the standing ovation that Pakistan got from the Indian fans at the Chepauk?
In 2004, when India toured Pakistan for the first time in fourteen years, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee exclaimed, 'Khel hi nahin, dil bhi jitiye.' (Win hearts as well, not just cricket matches)
The next year President Pervez Musharraf was invited to watch a match in India. But then again, this rivalry is unique. Maybe, a Brazil-Argentina football match would come close.
This rivalry has matured over the years with the current generation of Indian cricket fans interacting with the 'enemy' fans of Pakistan. TV and the internet have replaced death and blood.
The stiff competition between these two countries should remain but let's not drag cricket into political controversies. Let's not perceive the match as a war.
Because India vs Pakistan can overcome everything. It can stop work, demand attention and interrupt conversation. It can bring the country together.
So let's take a break from solving the 'anti-national' issue and enjoy Rohit Sharma’s batting against Mohammed Amir or Mohammed Hafeez coming face-to-face with Jasprit Bumrah.
Cricket cannot solve the Kashmir issue but it can certainly help us come together for a game that we all love. The emotion can never die and it's time to cheer together as a nation.