'Not to play Pakistan,' cricket greats take different stance

Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar struck a balanced view on the issue of India not playing against Pakistan in the league match of the World Cup in England on June 16.

Different opinions have emerged from the cricket fraternity after the “not to play against Pakistan” campaign gained momentum.   -  Getty Images

Even as the campaign “not to play against Pakistan” gained momentum, voices of different chord have emerged from the cricket fraternity. Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar, two of the greatest cricketers, struck a balanced view on the issue of India not playing against Pakistan in the league match of the World Cup in England on June 16.

Former Test off-spinner Harbhajan Singh triggered the debate when he said, “Country comes first. India should not play against Pakistan. What is two points (which India would concede for forfeiting the match). Pakistan is known to promote terrorism and the (Pulwama) attack was shocking. We can make up for the loss of two points. India has a very strong team. Not playing Pakistan would send a strong signal.”

Read: 'Sever ties with countries from which terrorism emanates'

For former India captain Sourav Ganguly, the issue went beyond the World Cup. He advocated isolation of Pakistan. “We should cut off all ties with Pakistan. Why just cricket. India should not play agianst Pakistan at all,” was Ganguly's response. He also supported the move to boycott the World Cup match.

Tendulkar wanted India to play Pakistan. "India has always come up trumps against Pakistan in the World Cup. Time to beat them once again. Would personally hate to give them two points and help them in the tournament. Having said that, for me India always comes first, so whatever my country decides, I will back that decision with all my heart," he said in a statement.

Gavaskar had struck a different note on Wednesday when he advocated that playing Pakistan was important. “Who gains from not playing Pakistan? India would lose two points and in turn gift two to Pakistan. It can become tricky in the ultimate qualification race. India is a strong team and can beat Pakistan. Remember, India has never lost to Pakistan in six World Cup meetings and I can't see a different result. India is a very strong team.”

For cricket fans the world over an India-Pakistan contest is always exciting. It becomes very special at a stage like the World Cup. Beginning 1992, when the two first met in a World Cup match, India won at Adelaide and set a wonderful trend which saw it win at Bangalore (1996), Manchester (1999), Centurion (2003), Mohali (2011) and twice in the inaugural T20 World Cup in South Africa in 2007.

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The win at Manchester had come at the height of the Kargil War. It was a gift with Venkatesh Prasad bowling his heart out with a five-wicket strike as India defended a total of 227. “At the top of the list,” is how Prasad has rated that show.

Test opener N. S. Sidhu would reserve his best for Pakistan. His 93 at Bangalore was the difference between the teams. The fans relished it as much as Sidhu. “I did not sleep the night before the match and don't remember having concentrated as hard ever,” Sidhu had told this reporter. No difference was the 98 by Tendulkar at Centurion when India chased 273 against wasim Akram, Shoaib Akhtar and Waqar Younis.

Tendulkar was man of the match at Sydney in 1992 for his unbeaten 54 and at Mohali when he crafted a masterly 85 on a tough pitch. He can relive those three match-winning innings vividly and understandable places them high in his personal favourites.

India and Pakistan have a history of classic encounters at Sharjah, stirring and heart-stopping. For all the acrimony the two generate on the cricket field, one remembers a stand out moment too – Javed Miandad visiting India 'nets' at Lord's to guide the batsmen on how to tackle seam and swing on the 1996 tour.