MOHALI MATCH THAWED INDO-PAK RELATIONS

ANISUDDIN KHAN
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Apr
11 - 17, 2011

If Mumbai 26/11 was the low in India and Pakistan relations, 30/3 at Mohali was the high between the two countries. It was at Mohali the two teams played the world cup semi final that kick started the stalled diplomatic and political relations between two countries.

Sportsmen are considered as the best ambassadors and world sporting events like Olympics, FIFA football cup or ICC world cricket cup are seen as events that bring countries closer and open up an opportunity for the host country/countries to boost its image and economy.

History has shown that the countries hosting any of the three above named world events have immensely been benefited. New sport structure which otherwise could not be developed grow out of nothing to meet the needs of the event. The nations felt proud of showcasing their nations economic prosperity to enhance its image in the world.

Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium, Hyderabad's Niaz Stadium, Karachi National Stadium and other stadia in Pakistan would have been redeveloped and refurbished had Pakistan not hosted two world cricket cup in 1987 and 1996.

Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh all created or redeveloped huge cricket facilities for the 2011 world cup.

Though Pakistan lost the co-hosting rights of the 2011 cricket spectacle but its team with good and disciplined performances created immense impact in three co-hosting countries. Pakistan's shocking win against Sri Lanka, Australia and against the West Indies in the quarter final were some of the highlights of the world cup.

No other match could create world media hype as did the semi final in Mohali However, the biggest prize for the sub-continental neighbors India and Pakistan was when they qualified to play each other in the high voltage semi final.

Pakistan cricket team did what hundred diplomats could not have achieved, it created a thaw in the frozen relations between India and Pakistan. Had Shahid Afridi and his men not qualified to play in the semi final of the world cup against India at Mohali on March 30 the Indian prime minister might not have invited his Pakistani counterpart to witness the match.

On the field, cricketing feats of Pakistani cricket team created an opportunity for the politicians of the two countries to take a bold step forward and shake hands which they would not have done otherwise in near future.

No doubt, the two countries were moving to normalize relations but the pace was slower than the speed of an iceberg. It was Afridi and his men who by reaching Mohali placed the entire process on fast forward mode and suddenly both Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and India's Manmohan Singh were meeting each other and vowing to reopen the process of dialogue and diplomacy that would bring the two countries closer.

Shahid Afridi's men created an opening for India and Pakistan to resume their stalled dialogue but the Pakistani skipper almost destroyed what he had built by making unnecessary comments against Indians on returning home.

His much reported comment that Indians have no large hearts like Pakistani Muslims and that the Indian media was negative created a furore in the India media which exploited to the hilt in their commentaries against Pakistan.

Afridi's large heart comment came just a week after he had congratulated the Indian nation for reaching the final at the prize distribution ceremony at Mohali. He poured his heart out to congratulate the Indian nation for victory and even hoped that they do well in the final at Mumbai on April 2. India won the cup defeating Sri Lanka in the hot and humid climate of the Indian port city more known for its cinema industry.

His comments immediately drew fire from some of more vocal Indian cricketers like Harbhajan Singh who retaliated with all the intelligence at his comment.

Afridi however realized the mistake and jumped upon the first opportunity to control the damage. He started with the praise of Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni whom he described as lucky captain India has.

He hoped the World Cup will give further boost to the sport in this region again and help normalize Indo-Pak cricket relations. He did not let an opportunity slip when he spoke about Sachin Tendulkar.

He blamed the media for reporting out of context his comment. He said he had enjoyed playing and going to India. The Indian fans he said appreciate and support good cricket and players. He said when he spoke he wanted just to convey the message that sports should not be mixed with politics. He recalled his statement on returning home from Mohali in which he had said Pakistanis should not treat cricket matches with India as war as in many other things the two nations had common interests.

He however stuck to his accusations that there were some elements in the Indian media who created misunderstandings or rundown Pakistanis.

He said his remarks that Sachin had to wait for his 100th century after semi final were misinterpreted and played up negatively in some Indian media. He said no opposing captain would like an opposing batsman to get a century in the crucial semi final.

He said Pakistan and India should have normal relations in cricket and there should be regular exchanges between the two teams.

Afridi said cricket can bring the two countries closer and it was a very positive gesture on part of the Indian Prime Minister to invite his Pakistani counterpart to Mohali for the match. In the meantime, like many other teams that could not finish at the medal podium, Pakistan also made changes in its team for the West Indies team.

Some of the stalwarts like Younis Khan, Abdul Razzaq and Kamarn Akmal were sidelined for the tour for different reasons. Younis Khan and Abdul Razzak and Umar Gul were rested while wicket keeper Kamran Akmal lost his seat in the team for his poor keeping Shahid Afridi retained the reins of captaincy of the limited overs part of the tour.

The Pakistan Cricket Board announced the squads for the T20 and ODI series. The tour consists of a solitary T20 International, 5 ODI's, and 2 Test Matches. The Series will commence with the only T20 International to be played at the Beausejour Stadium in St. Lucia on April 21. The ODI matches start from April 23rd with the first two matches to be played in St. Lucia while the 3rd and 4th matches will be played at Barbados. The 5th ODI will be held at Guyana. The team for the test matches starting from May 12 will be announced later.

T20 AND ODI SQUAD IS:

Shahid Afridi (Captain), Muhammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shahzad, Taufiq Umer, Usman Salahuddin, Misbah-ul Haq, Asad Shafiq, Umer Akmal, Abdul Rehman, Saeed Ajmal, Tanvir Ahmed, Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan, Hammad Azam, Sadaf Hussain, and M. Salman (Wicketkeeper).

However, within twelve hours after the announcement Aizaz Cheema was dropped and a 21 year old left arm medium fast bowler Sadaf Hussain was included in his place. Aizaz Cheema who was included in the T-20 and ODI squad has been declared unfit by doctors. Sadaf Hussain was in the list of reserve players.

The shocking omission from the touring side was keeper Sarfraz Ahmed who emerged as best keeper/batsman in the national pentangular cricket cup that completed just before the world cup started in early March.

TEAM MANAGEMENT FOR WEST INDIES TOUR.

Intikhab Alam (Team Manager), Waqar Younis (Team Coach), Aaqib Javed (Bowling Coach), Shahid Aslam (Asst. Team Manager), Faisal Hayat (Physiotherapist), Saboor Ahmed (Trainer), Usman Hashmi ( Analyst), Malang Ali (Masseur) Reserves fop the tour are: Rameez Raja, Asif Zakir, Sohail Khan, and Zulifqar Babar.