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By Arshad R. Zargar
/ CBS News
New Delhi — Pakistan’s national cricket team are scheduled to travel to India later this year to take on the neighboring nation in a much-anticipated Cricket World Cup match, the sport’s governing body revealed Tuesday. It will be the Pakistani team’s first trip to the rival nation in seven years, if everything goes according to plan, but the two nuclear-armed Asian nations aren’t just rivals on the cricket field.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) announced the schedule for the 2023 World Cup and India vs. Pakistan immediately resonated as one of the most thrilling face-offs in the cards. The match is scheduled for Oct. 15 at the 132,000-seat Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, named after India’s current leader.
Pakistan’s team last came to India in 2016 for the T20 World Cup, a shorter format of the game, but the two countries haven’t faced off in a full series in a decade, playing only a few full-length matches since 2007 — all at at neutral venues outside the countries.
Relations between India and Pakistan’s cricket teams have remained frosty, just like their political and diplomatic relations. Over the last decade, political tension has escalated on a number of occasions to military conflict.
The two countries have fought several wars and remained locked in a persistent border dispute since 1947, when the partition of British colonial India led to the creation of the two separate nations.
Pakistan’s national Cricket Board (PCB) said Tuesday that it would need clearance from the country’s government to travel to India for the scheduled matches. Pakistan had earlier refused to send its team to India and threatened to boycott the tournament entirely unless the matches were held in neutral venues.
But ICC officials managed to strike a deal, with Pakistan offering a hybrid model for the Asia Cup scheduled for September, with Pakistan hosting some matches and the rest, including India’s games, to be played in Sri Lanka. Pakistan was adamant that if India refused to travel to Pakistan for the Asia Cup, their team would not travel to India for the World Cup.
The Cricket World Cup is held every four years and watched by millions of fans across the world. It is by far the most popular sport in both India and Pakistan, followed and played by millions of people every day at all levels, including on the streets. The two countries have produced some of the best cricketers in the history of the game, with some reaching an almost god-like status in their home nations.
A 2019 World Cup clash between the two nations was watched on TV by some 273 million people. By comparison, about 113 million people tuned in to watch the Super Bowl in 2022.
“It’s going to be full of drama, full of fireworks, and a good contest,” Yash Chawla, a former Indian cricket journalist, told CBS News after Tuesday’s announcement.
Cricket has played a role in easing the tension between the two rival countries as much as it has been a victim of their geopolitical rivalry. While some politicians on both sides of the disputed border say cricket should be left entirely out of politics, others argue that two countries firing bullets at each other should avoid sending teams to face off in any venue.
There have been no significant peace talks held between India and Pakistan in years. Tension soared after a 2019 in Indian-controlled Kashmir, which even led to .
Pakistan’s then-Prime Minister — a cricket legend himself who captained the national team as they hoisted the World Cup in 1992 — suggested peace talks with India to resolve the disputes. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, however, has refused to hold talks with Pakistan, accusing the country of being a “sponsor” of cross-border terrorism.
At the recent Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting in India, the country’s foreign minister called his Pakistani counterpart a “spokesperson of [the] terrorism industry.”
With that level of political animosity as the backdrop, there was still no clarity Tuesday on whether the Pakistani government would grant the necessary permissions for the country’s cricket team to travel to India.
But fans were looking forward to the game, regardless.
Ten teams will compete for the top spot in the 46-day tournament, which begins on Oct. 5. The games will be played in 10 Indian cities, with the final scheduled for Nov. 19 in Ahmedabad.
First published on June 27, 2023 / 11:30 AM
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