WASHINGTON: Cricket has been the big loser in the frosty government relations and political differences between India and Pakistan, as their teams have not played a Test match since 2007, amid a ban on Indian crickets by their government to play their rivals across the border, a news article said.
A report by the leading business magazine Forbes has described the India-Pakistan rivalry in cricket as the most passionate in all of sports, even more "intoxicating" than Australia-England iconic Ashes.
"Cricket is not the most popular sport in either Australia or England, a far cry from the obsessive fandom in sub-continent. When India and Pakistan play each other, it's more than a game for countries at loggerheads," the article said.
"Matches are seen as opportunities for diplomacy amid a volatile part of the world but contests between them have been scare in the past decade," it noted.
Pakistan and India have not played a Test series against each other since 2007, and they only meet in International Cricket Council (ICC) tournaments. The Indian government has imposed a ban on their cricket team to play Pakistan.
"Unfortunately, frost government relations and political differences have festered through to the governing bodies with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) engaged in continual nasty words," the article observed.
Highlighting the excitement the contest between the two countries produce, the report said the cricket world comes to a standstill when the two countries meet and ensure a financial windfall for the ICC, which it added, ensure that they two teams meet in major tournaments.
Most recently, the two teams clashed in the Asia Cup that India won after defeating Bangladesh in the final. India beat Pakistan twice during the qualifying phase to avenge their thrashing in the Champion Trophy final last year by the Green shirts. That final was one of the most hyped in the sports history.
Alluding to the level of tension and rivalry in the cricket game, the article recalled the emotion that spilled over in Kolkata in 1999 when 60,000 rioting fans had to be evicted after protesting an umpiring decision against India.
However, the article observed that these days "the resentment between the fan bases seems to have generally been pushed aside to underline the longing for a return of regular matches" between their countries.
Test cricket's first World Championship is starting next year but India and Pakistan are not scheduled to face off in the first cycle. "With cricket's most compelling contest absent, the World Championship is on the back foot before it even begins," the article ended.
Fully aware of how crucial mending India and Pakistan relations are to cricket, ICC Chief Executive Dave Richardson has said that ICC would facilitate any discussion if it can but that it was up to the two parties themselves. "We have a dispute resolution process which is available for the members to use and occasionally when there are disputes, members can use that process," the article quoted him as saying.
"There is nothing quite like India and Pakistan getting into it on cricket field," the article said. "Right now, cricket is the poorer without its showpiece rivalry that makes sports so magical.
"It remains a travesty that India-Pakistan is mostly left on cricket's scrapheap," it concluded.