As India and Pakistan get ready to lock horns in the Champions Trophy today, we ask ourselves if an India-Pakistan match ignites the same feelings anymore. Is it still a matter of life and death? Is it war without the weapons?
When I toured Pakistan in 2004, cricket came out of the sports pages and appeared on the front pages of national dailies. There was extensive coverage in electronic media too.
An India-Pakistan cricket match was always special, for the countries identified their progress with the results of their cricket team. Since both countries were still developing, there wasn’t too much to boast about. Winning a cricket match was a way to assert superiority.
While there was always keen interest, the level of media focus in 2004 was unheard of, and it hasn’t changed since. Even though the actual cricket is not half as exciting as it used to be in the 1980s and ‘90s, the media hasn’t stopped milking the cash-cow called India-Pakistan game.
Let’s get down to business and look at what India need to do to start the campaign on a winning note, and if there are any concerns that need addressing from their perspective.
In the 2013 Champions Trophy, Indian openers added 382 runs in five games, which included two century and two half-century partnerships. Both Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma started strongly against South Africa in the opening game then and continued their good form. Four years later, the same combination will be starting the innings in England.
Dhawan came into this tournament on the heels of a successful IPL and hit the ground running in the warm-up games, which should keep the naysayers at bay. Rohit, on the other hand, had a stop-start IPL and missed out in the only warm-up game he played.
However, he’s too good a player to miss out for long. Unlike the IPL, he’ll be opening the batting and therefore will have ample time to get his eye in. He should fire sooner rather than later.