Hearts and games
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Even as a batsman who was proud to be cautious and conservative, Sunil Gavaskar would occasionally succumb to the temptation of poking his bat at balls best left alone. About a quarter-century after he hung up his boots, he seems to have edged it once again. By expressing reservations over the resumption of cricket ties between India and Pakistan, he has waded into a many-layered issue without his patented on-field finesse, and perhaps played a false stroke. And just like it was during those Sunny days, the little master's indiscretion could well break several cricket-crazy hearts. The simple fact is that if cordiality between nations was mandatory for them to face off on a sporting field, India and Pakistan, with their long-standing differences, would never have padded up against each other. And that horrific hypothetical happening would have deprived cricket's narrative of a scintillating rivalry that regularly fuels memorable contests, and left it so much poorer.
About a fortnight ago, under-19 teams of the two nations reminded the neighbours of what they have been missing. At the Junior Asia Cup in Malaysia, the teenagers played two really close games, the kind doctors advise patients with cardiac problems to stay away from. The first, a league game, India lost by a single run; the second, the final, was tied. India's captain, Unmukt Chand, scored a ton in the final, and so did Pakistan's opener Sami Aslam. And this isn't the last time these names will be heard of.
Over the years, India has shown the knack of discovering supremely gifted top-order batsmen, while Pakistan is famous for its hopefully unending reserves of deadly quicks and wily spinners. It's a cricketing crime to keep these two species away from each other. If governments are sure about the security of players and spectators, who wouldn't want to watch Virender Sehwag take guard against Umar Gul or sit transfixed to know how Sachin Tendulkar would handle Saeed Ajmal this time? But then, when legends of the game start talking about the wrong Ajmal in a cricketing conversation, they turn into spoilsports.
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