Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called up leaders of the Saarc neighbours playing in the recent cricket World Cup played in Australia and New Zealand ahead of the tournament to wish them good luck.
Modi clearly had an intention to make use of cricket as a diplomatic tool as he said on the occasion that cricket connects people in South Asia and promotes goodwill. He also hoped that "players from the Saarc region play with passion & bring laurels to the region".
Though no Asian team could make the final of the World Cup, first time since 1987, but each of the Asian sides (five Saarc nations besides the UAE) showed their skills to compete with the best of the world and that too in the alien conditions. Even if the trophy didn't come to Asia this time, but its talents were certainly acknowledged.
Why not treat cricket as the same medium of mobility during IPL?
But now with the World Cup getting over and the Indian Premier League (IPL) set for a colourful kick-off, is the same mantra for cricket diplomacy no more relevant? The absence of Pakistani players in the annual cricket carnival in India raises a doubt.
IPL teaches a philosophy and that can be a handy education for South Asia
The IPL is not just another cricket tournament. It brings with it a new philosophy to co-exist, compete and succeed in the super-competitive life of today. Just like how the Test match had taught people earlier the virtues of patience and tenacity, IPL teaches people to live a life without strict borders.
This precisely gives a tremendous opportunity to the people of South Asia in particular to get rid of the pre-occupied mindsets and allow a free run of the feeling of fraternity via cricket. So why stifle a big opportunity to challenge the same-old tradition of mutual suspicion?
Who can forget Shoaib Akhtar's destructive bowling against Delhi Daredevils in 2008?
Despite its ordinary run in the recent World Cup and all the flak it faced from supporters and ex-cricketers, there is no denying the fact that Pakistan cricket has some exciting individuals who on their day, can produce a magic to rattle any formidable opponent. Who can forget the excitement that Shoab Akhtar had generated in an IPL match in the very first edition in 2008 when he ran through the Delhi Daredevils as a bowler of the Kolkata Knight Riders?
Pakistanis are no less achievers in T20 cricket and deserve an opportunity just on cricketing grounds
Pakistan have won the T20 World Cup once, finished as the runner-ups once and reached the last four twice. They are ranked No. 3 in the ICC rankings in T20 cricket. Two of their players feature among the top 3 T20 all-rounders in the ICC rankings.
Can anything be better than to see Dhoni & Afridi taking on bowlers together?
By not allowing Pakistan to play in the IPL, aren't the lovers of this carnival being denied a chance to witness the best in the business?
But cricket always becomes a soft victim of strict government policies
Cricket, like any other soft business in the sub-continent, also finds obstacles in the government of the day which is not a healthy sign at all. We say that cricket can melt the diplomatic and political eyes but actually it is the diplomatic and political that obstruct cricket's capacity to mend the broken bridges.
IPL gives an excellent chance of confidence-building between the two neighbours
More than the bilateral cricket series between the two countries, IPL opens an even bigger opportunity to improve things by allowing more mixing and interaction between individuals.
The sub-continent needs to look cricket between India and Pakistan less as a war and more as a confidence-building measure.
IPL is better than matches between two nations
In clash of two national teams, the feelings of clashing nationalisms make it more a competitive conflict. In a version like the IPL where nationalism is irrelevant and professionalism rules over everything else, the cricketers can really make a big contribution in narrowing the gap in the mindset of the common people on either side of the border.
Yes there are technical issues to be addressed but after creating such a wonderful event called the IPL, can't we take it to the next level and pave way for a beautiful camaraderie?