India vs Pakistan: Noisy neighbours, silent er
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India vs Pakistan. The mother of all battles. The ultimate marquee event of the cricket calendar for both countries. The first fixture to be highlighted in bold the day a World Cup schedule arrives. The only result that actually matters. The outcome always reflecting in the collective mood of the respective countries on the following day.
The intensity and the passion surrounding the tour evident generally in the build-up itself. Two nervous sets of players realising their shot at becoming overnight heroes. Two nations with bated breath praying that their chosen men deliver the desired result. Every hyperbole possible was justified when India and Pakistan took the field.
Well not quite, this time around. In fact the build-up to Pakistan's return to Indian shores and the recommencement of bilateral ties between the arch-rivals has managed to hardly create a buzz. In days gone by-probably since the day India and Pakistan began playing against each other as separate nations-it would have been unimaginable, ludicrous even-especially considering that this is the neighbours' first bilateral meeting in five years. You just have to turn the clock to 2004, and India's friendship series in Pakistan to get a hint of the vibe, the passion and the all-encompassing nature of a cricketing clash between these two teams.
But Pakistan have arrived here at a time, Indian cricket is preoccupied with too many other predicaments. A humbling Test series loss at home to an un-fancied England outfit, a team and its captain under pressure and incessant scrutiny, not to forget the most high-profile retirement you could imagine. And it only seems ironic that Sachin Tendulkar called it a day from ODI cricket on the first day of the tour, further distancing attention from the tour.
Also, the undersized series, which kicks off at Bangalore's Chinnaswamy Stadium on Tuesday with the first of the two T20s, is mainly a hasty arrangement, sandwiched between two legs of an extended England tour. Put together more as a neighbourly gesture than anything else, leaving the tour in many ways fighting for context.