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   First things first, let us be happy... (April 16, 1996)

First things first, let us be happy Azharuddin did not take Gavaskar's advice and resign ("take a break") as captain. What a fine victory he fashioned for India yesterday. And, yes, if we blame the captain every time we lose, we have to give him credit every time we win.

To beat Pakistan in Sharjah is for India the next best thing to beat Pakistan in Pakistan. It is an even, though the rest of the cricket world may not take congnisance of it. And it was the manner in which the victory was accomplished that it quality lies. First, to put up a tall score, crossing the 300 mark in the final over, all guns firing. Then not to silt against the Pakistan batting's counterattack, to fight back, first to contain Pakistan, then get all its batsmen out.

There was much enthusiasm on the field, whichm for me, is always better to observe than enthusiasm in the stands.

It is still two matches to the finals, though. We will have to take it step by step, Mr. Sandeep Patil to note. To make things easy, South Africa has to beat Pakistan today. Then India has to beat South Africa the following day. Finally, in the finals, India should once again beat South Africa. It is a pity India and Pakistan willnot meet in Friday's finals, chances of that happening are 1 in 1,000 now, possibly less.

I am all for a battle between India and Pakistan on the cricket field, at least it is better than fighting in real life. And I see nothing wrong in the strong feelings that an encounter between the two teams gives rise to. It happens when England and Australia meet, and there has been, and continues to be, much bad blood in the battle of the ashes. If you swa the re-screening of ‘Bodyline' recently, according to me one of the best TV films ever made, you would have noticed the near war situation that was created.

What is required is that it should not be carried beyond the game. And occasional firecracker burst over a Pakistan victory in one of Mumbai's lanes could be ignored, or dealt with the contempt it deserves. India is playing Pakistan, Hindus are not playing Muslims. The players that have consituted the Indian teams over the years should prove that. And, the captains, from Nari Contractor and Tiger Pataudi, to Chandu Borde and Vijay Hazare, and down to Azharuddin.

However, I am waiting for the day when India and Pakistan play each other in their own respective countries, not the UAE and Singapore and now, I regret to say, Canada. Canada is no country to play serious cricket in.

And, finally, I hope, India and Pakistan play together as a single cricket team. One country, one cricket team.

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