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Harbhajan Singh advocates for India - Pakistan bilateral contests

Last updated on 08 Jun 2024 | 01:34 PM
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Harbhajan Singh advocates for India - Pakistan bilateral contests

The former Indian off spinner also hoped for a three match Test series between India and Pakistan on neutral venues

The upcoming game on June 9 between India and Pakistan in New York has been billed as THE marquee contest of this World Cup. 

Not only has the International Cricket Council (ICC) priced the tickets at a premium rate, special security arrangements have been made for the game that is expected to be a full house in New York. 

These contests between India and Pakistan getting extra attention and immense media anticipation is not something new. In the 2023 ODI World Cup in India, there was a separate ceremony organised before the game with top billed Bollywood artists performing for the house full Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad. 

Under this light, questions have been asked on why can’t India and Pakistan play bilateral contests at neutral venues? Why can’t the two governments, who have no qualms when the two nations meet in ICC contests, are so averse to the idea of hosting cricket’s most intense and popular rivalry on neutral grounds?

When Harbhajan was asked if ICC should take up the responsibility to organise bilateral cricket between India and Pakistan, Harbhajan’s answer was resoundingly positive. “Of course they should organise it,” Harbhajan Singh, said at a special Star Sports Press Room organised in New York. 

“If India Pakistan matches happen, irrespective of which corner of the world they are happening in, the world reaches there to watch it. People travel long distances to watch that game. It’s the biggest game for the people of Asian origin. Even if you take this match to Australia, the stadiums will be house full.”

Under the leadership of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, efforts were taken in early 2000s after the Kargil War to restart India - Pakistan cricket and a few tours were organised. It was thought as a great opportunity for the people of the two nations to connect with each other, considering the obvious cultural and linguistic similarities. 

For Harbhajan, restarting India - Pakistan cricket would be a great opportunity for the two nations to rejuvenate that bond. It doesn’t matters where the ICC chooses to organise these games, great crowd support can be easily anticipated for such games. 

“It’s a big opportunity. A big chance to reconnect things. If India Pakistan matches happen, things will get better for everyone.”

So ICC should take the step to hold these games on neutral venues. Play in Malaysia. Play in small venues. We used to play Sahara Cup as well.”

Recent clashes between India and Pakistan have been immesenly hyped, and except the group stage game played between India and Pakistan at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) during the 2022 T20 World Cup, most of these games have been one sided affairs. 

Harbhajan reckoned that regular cricket between the arch rivals will actually curb the unrequited hype given to these games. “When we’ll play one or two tournaments in an year, there would be no need to unnecessarily hype the one or two game the two teams play each other,” Harbhajan said. 

“If you’ll play regularly against each other, you’ll know the strengths and weaknesses of each other. And this need of hyping up these contests will disappear. There would be no need of it. So more matches should happen between the two nations.”

Harbhajan also didn’t forget to back more Test cricket between the two nations, and the World Test Championship (WTC) offers a great opportunity to restart Test series between India and Pakistan. “And Test cricket should also happen. Play Test cricket in England. Play it in Australia,” the former Indian off spinner said. 

“Don’t play in places like Dubai where the bowlers are made to suffer. Play in good centres. A three match Test series can be kept there. And it will be house full. You won’t get a chance to say that no one comes to watch Test cricket.”

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