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Radical proposal to play India-Pakistan Tests in Australia

India v Pakistan - ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2021
India v Pakistan - ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2021

Pakistan's historic defeat over India at the T20 World Cup was among the largest cricketing spectacles since the pandemic began. Babar Azam's side beat India for the first time in World Cup history, winning by 10 wickets with 13 balls to spare.

Azam and Mohammad Rizwan's 152-run opening stand sealed a stunning victory, which preceded an outburst of celebrations.

However, it was a stark reminder of the scarcity of contests between two of the biggest rivals in world sport. Due to diplomatic tensions, which show no signs of abating, Pakistan-India clashes are now solely reserved for ICC-organised events. Thirteen years ago, the Indian government halted all bilateral series across the region of 1.6 billion people.

Pakistan-India Tests are needed

With no Test match played between India and Pakistan since 2007, there is clearly a fervor appetite for it around the world. On the rare occasion they do play limited overs matches, the cricket world stops in excitement and anticipation, cajoled into wanting more.

Additionally, the advent of the World Test Championship renders it even more crucial for each nation to play each other.

Former Pakistan fast bowler Waqar Younis said it would be impractical to continue the World Test Championship without India playing Pakistan.

He said:

“The ICC should have intervened and done something because to me having a Test championship without Pakistan and India Test matches makes no sense."

In any case, Pakistan-India Tests would surely aid in reviving Test cricket (seemingly a dying format according to Kevin Pietersen) in the pursuit of healthily co-existing alongside white-ball cricket.

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Where there is great ethnic, tribal, linguistic and class diversity, cricket is one of the few tools of social cohesion. Cricket is fundamental to the functionality and identity of each country.

Former Pakistan legend Shahid Afridi once spoke of the power cricket could have.

He said:

"Cricket between Pakistan and India is very important. Relations between the two countries can improve because of cricket."

Ultimate harmony appears to be a future ideal, but on-field scenes of sportsmanship can go a long way in reforming multi-national relations.

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International tours are slowly returning to Pakistan. They were banned in the wake of the 2009 attack on the Sri Lanka national team in Lahore. Playing against India, albeit overseas, would be another stepping stone in normalizing Pakistan's presence in international cricket once again.

How capable is Australia of hosting Pakistan and India?

Albeit an ODI match, the two sides did play each other at the Adelaide Oval during the 2015 ICC World Cup. Tickets to the match sold out in just 12 minutes, according to the South Australian government.

India v Pakistan - 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup
India v Pakistan - 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup

Given the jubilant scenes and the support from the Aussie fraternity, Australia presents itself as an ideal neutral venue. Many Australians are fond of its re-instatement, appreciating the despair of a 13-year hiatus from the 'South Asian Ashes'.

Usman Khawaja noted that in Australia, a shared love of cricket and subcontinental heritage overrides other differences between Pakistan and India.

He said:

“None of that matters – when you’re in Australia, you actually gravitate towards the subcontinent guys. When I see that, I just think ‘all together in Australia we get along, and we don’t even think twice about where we’re from’. It doesn’t really matter to us.”
“I want to see some red-ball games. I want to see Pakistan spinners take on Indian spinners, Pakistan batters take on Indian batters in the longer form, because that’s the true test. It’d be so great for world cricket if at some stage we can work together to get that happening again.”

Former Australian batter Ed Cowan concurred on ABC's Grandstand Cricket podcast that it was 'outrageous' these matches couldn't occur at neutral venues.

He said:

"Play it in Dubai. Play it in Australia. There's an appetite for these teams down under. It is such a spectacle. It's emotional. It's intense. And the cricket, realistically, these are the two superpowers and we need to see more of it."

Given Australia's lack of Test matches touring lately, it's an opportunity for Cricket Australia to give back to world cricket. It may even benefit Cricket Australia.

When talking crowd numbers, there's clearly a commercial appetite for organizing bodies if past Indian and Pakistani tours to Australia are any barometer. People of Indian and Pakistani descent make up nearly 3% of Australia's population.

Australian rules football has called forth the mega-development of most cricket grounds in Australia into larger South-Asian-like stadiums. This significantly differentiates it from other nations, namely England, New Zealand, South Africa and the West Indies.

In a secure environment, matches could be scheduled either side of the Australian Test summer (and the Big Bash League). These extended windows of fixturing are aided by Australia's climate being warm enough for cricket in the months sandwiching summer.

Day-night fixtures in the east, as well as matches in Perth, will feed back nicely into the South Asian timezone.

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Edited by Diptanil Roy
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