Cricket minus noise

India-Pakistan games have always demanded something extra from the cricketers involved. Like on that historic tour to Pakistan in 2004, the Indians were asked to not merely win games, but conquer hearts too. Over the years, the fans have wanted them to be overtly aggressive but the officials don't want them to get carried away. Indo-Pak games have been strategically scheduled to be political ice-breakers or ill-disguised CBMs. Depending on the diplomatic temperature of the day, these contests get played either in the background of a predictable war-by-other-means rhetoric or in a pleasant haze of nostalgia harking back to pre-Partition days. Marketing men have loved exploiting these emotions while selling the series. Slotting a fiery Pakistan paceman against one of the many superstar India batsmen was enough to raise the mercury in the fan zone.

All that was missing this time as Pakistan virtually sneaked into

India for two T20 games and three ODIs. The last time they were here for a series was way back in 2007. But despite the five-year gap, the anticipation that usually goes with receiving a long-awaited arch rival was missing. There were several reasons for this. For starters, India was preoccupied with a high-profile retirement. Besides, Pakistan is a team that has gone under the radar since international teams have been repeatedly rejecting their invitation after raising security fears. Plus, there is no Shoaib Akhtar-like player to needle Tendulkar or the Indian fans. The two Pakistan teams, the Mohammad Hafeez-led T20 team and the Misbah ul Haq-led ODI team, are made up of mellowed down men who believe in action, not words.

It would be foolhardy to say that the old rivalry has lost its zing. There are enough men in blue and green who have the skills and the temperament to provide top quality cricket. Despite their limited international exposure, Pakistan continues to throw up pacers of high calibre. Add to the mix a few wily spinners and the visiting team has a bowling attack that is capable of testing the promising batsmen of the home team. It's a scrutiny

India urgently needs as it tries to separate the wheat from the chaff in these times of generational shift. In a nutshell, the missing buzz during the countdown doesn't

necessarily translate into tame cricket on match day. Actually, an India Pakistan contest minus the noise, is what the true cricket fan always wanted.

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