At the recent T20 World Cup, in front of a heaving 90,000 crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, rivals India and Pakistan played one of the greatest cricket matches of all time.
The astounding result was almost inconsequential because no one will forget the sheer cacophony of noise, which even on television felt like it was vibrating off a mega sound system.
Amid such a frenzied atmosphere, marked by a whir of color befitting the participating teams who arguably boast the most devoted fan bases in sports, the magnetism of India and Pakistan playing one another was in full pomp.
Unfortunately these contests are exceedingly rare because they don’t play often against each other due to political differenceswhich sadly means bilaterals between them have not been possible for a decade.
Only in official international events can they meet. Every time they do, it stops the cricket world. According to the International Cricket Council, India versus Pakistan was unsurprisingly the most watched of the tournament accumulating 256 million viewing hours in India.
Naturally, there has been a push to explore more opportunities for the rivalry. The Asian Cricket Council, led by Indian cricket boss Jay Shah, is set to host annual Asia Cups with the matches between Pakistan-India – there were two played in September’s event – effectively propping up the entire tournament.
There have been expressions of interest in Australia and the US The Melbourne Cricket Club, who manage the MCG, and the Victorian government are keen to host an India-Pakistan Test in Melbourne. There has not been a Test played between the countries for 15 years which makes a mockery of the fledgling World Test Championship.
“We’ve taken that up with Cricket Australia. I know the (Victoria) government has as well,” MCC chief executive Stuart Fox told Australian radio broadcaster SEN. “It’s enormously complicated from what I can understand, amongst a really busy schedule. So I think that’s probably the greater challenge.
“Hopefully, Cricket Australia keep taking it up with the ICC and keep pushing for it.”
While the US doesn’t boast the type of cricket infrastructure comparable to the 100,000-seat MCG, facilities are being developed across the country ahead Major League Cricket – the new T20 franchise league – launching in July.
“We would love for our venues to be available to stage those matches.. not just India-Pakistan…we want teams to have a massive appetite to come here,” MLC co-founder Vijay Srinivasan told me recently.
“We need venues to be ready. We want MLC to demonstrate that USA is capable of hosting big cricket events.”
Even officials of the bickering cricket boards have been trying to push past differences, knowing the ensuing windfalls and the goodwill that can result for cricket-crazy countries that comprise 1.6 billion.
Recently axed Pakistan Cricket Board boss Ramiz Raja, the charismatic former captain then turned popular broadcaster, had been an advocate of reviving the rivalry outside of major ICC events.
“We saw the world stop when India and Pakistan played at the Asia Cup,” Raja told me in September. ”We have that power at the Asian level to organize more Asia Cups which would see more matches between India and Pakistan. It’s an iconic rivalry, the people want it. The more the merrier.”
He had proposed more matches through triangular and quadrangular One-Day International series although they haven’t gotten off the ground and it’s unclear what stance a new-look PCB will take after the bitter exit of Raja.
Expect more inventive ideas to emerge in desperate efforts to revive cricket’s best but exceedingly rare rivalry.