India vs Pakistan or Cricket vs Nationalism
What India VS Pakistan cricket match brings to the table.
Siddhant Dawkare | Congratulations to the Indian cricket team on a victory against arch-rivals Pakistan in the 2022 Asia cup. This win might help overcome the outrageous defeat the Indian team suffered in the last meeting of these two nations. Cricket unites people in both countries, but it is also the patronage of hate that fuels the emotions of cricket fans across borders.
Cricket was brought to the subcontinent by the British, it is rather a subject to study how the subcontinent behaves like a fan base since.
India became independent in 1947 and Pakistan became a separate country. The grief of this incident is also in the division of cricket players which left cricket fanatics in a lifelong melancholy of dreaming of Wasim Akram playing in the same team as Sachin Tendulkar or Imran Khan with Kapil Dev. What it also left is the legacy of profound patriotism preached in the celebration of Cricket as a nationalistic sport. A game that grew up on mutual assertion of competence against Britishers became a tool to conflict loyalties for Hindus in India and Muslims in Pakistan. Those who chose their country irrespective of the religiously majoritarian trait are very often put into an acid test of proving their patriotism. Indian Muslims, be it cricketers or fans, are subjected to proving their loyalty towards the nation from time to time.
While looking at the history of the Indo-Pak cricket affair, it is important to mention two cricketers who shaped this rivalry. Lala Amarnath and Abdul Hafiz Kardar, both hailing from Lahore, played together before the partition. Amarnath, who scored the first test century for India, was one of the most decorated players of that time. Kardar on the other side was a staunch supporter of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, supported the two-nation theory was the first captain of the Independent Pakistani cricket team, who went on to become an administrator and then a politician.
Lala Amarnath and Abdul Hafeez Kardar. Photo: Sportstar
Both of them captained their nations in first India versus Pakistan test series. India won the three-match series by 2-1, winning the first and third tests in Delhi and Mumbai respectively but the second test was what became a stepping stone for Pakistani cricket. The second test was played in Lucknow, a much familiar place for Pakistanis due to its great Muslim culture and Power (Bose, 2011). In Amarnath’s biography, written by his own son Rajinder, he is quoted saying:
“He did not ‘understand the mental trauma that had affected the displaced players due to Partition. I could because it had affected me.’ Whether Lala was right in making this charge is impossible to assess, as all the participants are dead, but the Lucknow crowd did not take kindly to defeat. The Indian team bus was stoned and Lala had to wade into the crowd with a lathi, an Indian stick, to rescue his players” (Amarnath, 2004, p. 192).
Another name that is important to mention here is Abbas Ali Baig. An Indian cricketer who had a tragic fall in his career due to the allegations made against him claimed that his bad performances against Pakistan were because of his Muslim identity. Baig batted exceptionally well against England and Australia but slumped against the Pakistanis. His scores were 1,13,19 and 1 respectively compared to a gritty batting performance against England where most Indians failed. He also played a major part in India’s victory against Australia by scoring fifties in both innings for which he famously received a kiss from a young woman in the audience (Ezekiel, 2020).
Abbas Ali Baig is 81 today. One of the most charming & stylish cricketers. He was playing for Oxford when he was called up & made a test century on debut against England. Was also the 1st Indian cricketer to be kissed on a cricket field, decades before social media! pic.twitter.com/UJ8log299V— Joy Bhattacharjya (@joybhattacharj) March 19, 2020
To quote (Bose, 2011), A failure in a non-Pakistan series, or by a Hindu in that series, might have been overlooked. But against Pakistan the natural, albeit libellous, conclusion was that Baig had sabotaged his own chances so that the good of Islam, in the form of the Pakistan cricket team, could triumph. ‘Confidence was further shaken by a torrent of poison pen letters, telephone calls and telegrams. He opted out of the Indian team after the Kolkata Test.’ Baig never recovered from the libellous accusations made against him during that series. After the 1960 Pakistan tour, he became the forgotten man of Indian cricket and played just two more Tests, seven years later.
Bringing the timeline back to 2021, T-20 World Cup, many might have forgotten the chagrin Mohammed Shami had to face after the loss against Pakistan. Pakistan thrashed India in what was a one-sided game of Pakistani dominance. India, which was restricted to 151 while batting first, received a batting masterclass from Pakistani openers. Pakistan won the match by 10 wickets, achieving the target in 17.5 overs. Although the Indian team was favoured to win this clash, considering its unbeaten record against arch-rivals in World Cups, it was the young Pakistani side which has been progressing over the last 1-2 years in T20Is with its young talents like Mohammad Rizwan, Shahin Shah Afridi and Babar Azam.
Indian bowlers despaired for any chance and Mohammed Shami ended up conceding the most runs. What followed after the match was an outrage by furious Hindu fans that Shami, the only Muslim player on the team, deliberately threw away the game (Kazmin, 2021). Indian captain Virat Kohli responded by highlighting Shami's "passion for the country" and other outstanding contributions to the team. In response to Kohli's statement that "attacking someone for their faith is the most despicable thing a human being can do," he received a barrage of criticism and death threats for his little daughter.
🗣️ @imVkohli: Attacking someone over religion is the most pathetic thing human being can do— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) October 30, 2021
The #India captain stands fully in support with Mohammed Shami after the bowler was targeted on social media after the loss to #Pakistan #T20WorldCup pic.twitter.com/Yxxj5jpIFV
It was not only that Shami was lashed out at, Indian fans called out Indian people who cheered Pakistan’s victory. But it was not limited to social media heckling or trolling. The Uttar Pradesh Police arrested three Kashmiri students, Rajasthan Police arrested a teacher all for allegedly celebrating Pakistan’s win over India. The three Kashmiri students in Agra were suspended by their college for allegedly posting WhatsApp status in praise of Pakistani cricketers. Police then arrested them after a complaint registered by local members of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). In Rajasthan, the Muslim teacher was expelled and later sent to jail by the court. There were also reports in Punjab that several Kashmiri students were assaulted after India’s loss, for the same reason as in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
This list was later topped by the Jammu and Kashmir Police as they arrested two medical college students under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). The charges were filed under Section 13 of UAPA dealing with advocacy, abetment and incitement of the “commission of any unlawful activity” and also, for “inciting violence against a particular class or community of persons” under Section 505 of Indian Penal Code.
The draconian UAPA was introduced in 2019 by the ruling BJP. The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act is renowned for its strict enforcement. It is frequently utilised by individuals in positions of authority to suppress dissent, as was recently seen in 2019 when thousands of activists were imprisoned for speaking out in opposition to the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens.
Under the UAPA, there is a longer period for investigation of the case and an accused is eligible to apply for bail only after six months. No bail is given unless the court decides that there is no prima facie case, but there is no assessment of evidence at the bail stage to decide this. The right to a speedy trial is also violated. It is fascinating to understand the gravity of these events. The arrests made under UAPA asserted the fact that supporting Pakistan’s cricket in India is an act of terrorism or for that matter, a threat to national security.
We are fortunate that this is not the case this time. Now that we have won, we can go back to our normal lives the next day. We are Nationalists, tied to Nationalist functions, who have put our National pride in eleven cricketers who destine our faith in other fellow citizens.
Authors Cited: Mihir Bose, Ashis Nandy, Rajender Amarnath