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   I do not know how you feel about it... (February 14, 1996)

I do not know how you feel about it, but according to me the World Cup has already paid off. Before a single ball has been bowled in the actual competition, India and Pakistan have come together. In cricket we unite, let the politicians in both the countries understand that.

It is not my policy to hit a man when he is down, I am aware that Mr. Thackeray has undergone heart surgery and his physical condition right now is not so easy. But I hope he is aware of what is going on around him. Because it is he who has been repeatedly announcing: "I will not tolerate Pakistan playing in India." Not only is Pakistan playing in India, but India and Pakistan together played in Colombo yesterday in what may be considered as cricket's greatest upset.

And I am not blaming Mr. Thackeray alone for this. All politicians are responsible for giving cricket a bad name, rather than their own politics. If I specifically mentioned Mr. Thackeray, it is because he is among the most outspoken of these.

Cricket cements, it does not offend. But the argument against it has been there since the days of the Pentagulars. That other outspoken critic of the game, A.F.S. Talyarkhan, finally succeeded in stopping the Pentangulars because he felt it created bad blood between Hindus and Muslims. If created competition, and there can be no sport without competition. They fought hard as nails, the Hindus and the Muslims. But at the end of the day, when an Indian team went abroad to play, Hindus and Muslims played for India. Mushtaq Ali, Amir Elahi, Ghulam Ahmed, Gul Mohamed, Abid Ali, cricket has known no communal barriers. The Nawabs of Pataudi, father and son, led India with distinction, and Fazal Mahmood, who later led Pakistan, almost played for India.

Most good thing are decided spontaneously, with minimum planning, no meetings of committees and sub committees. The India-Pakistan Friendship XI was so decided. Suddenly India and Pakistan, along with Sri Lanka, found themselves on the same side of the fence. It was a reaction to outsiders, who thought they could come to the sub-continent and dictate terms to us. The entire tournament could have been canceled, that would have been the old way. The new way was for India and Pakistan to suddenly find their own combined strength. And, why not! Both have been world champions. Both have individually shown their strength.

The writing was on the wall during the last World Cup during the last World Cup in Australia. All India was backing Pakistan and Gavaskar even forecast its victory. Gavaskar was later called to Pakistan by a grateful nation. Our Indian politicians objected to his acceptation the invitation. It is to Gavaskar's and cricket's credit that he accepted the invitation in spite of the politicians.

 
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