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India vs Pakistan ICC World T20 2014: Why so serious?

Seriously asking, why so serious? © Getty Images
Seriously asking, why so serious? © Getty Images

India and Pakistan are going to lock horns in the much-awaited opener of the Super 10s of the ICC World Twenty20 2014. Abhishek Mukherjee tries to fathom why the contest is considered seriously.

Why so serious?

Really, why so serious?

This is not about Vinoo Mankad spinning a magical web or Fazal Mahmood doing things on a matting wicket; this isn’t about India being mauled by Imran Khan, Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad, and Mudassar Nazar; this isn’t about Sunil Gavaskar carrying his bat or scoring 96; this isn’t even about Sachin Tendulkar’s 136 or Anil Kumble’s ten-wicket haul or Shoaib Akhtar’s two in two.

This isn’t about Bishan Singh Bedi calling a match off due to blatantly biased umpiring or Miandad’s last-ball six or Aaqib Javed’s hat-trick or Wasim Akram’s special over to Dilip Vengsarkar or that Ajay Jadeja onslaught or that Venkatesh Prasad send-off or that Sourav Ganguly-Robin Singh partnership at Dhaka or that Tendulkar six over third-man or even that Harbhajan Singh six, no.

This is different.

This is the format where matches are decided by Robin Uthappa’s bowling, followed by taking the cap off and multiple ostentatious bows…

… or by a terrible last over from the obscure Joginder Sharma: super-wide, wide (not given), six over the bowler’s head, a terrible hara-kiri of an attempted scoop.

Is this an event as big as it’s portrayed to be? Do we even remember that Lakshmipathy Balaji was India’s best bowler with a spell of three for 22 in the last India-Pakistan clash in a World Cup? Or, stretching things to a global level, do we know that Craig Kieswetter is one of the four men who have won a Man of the Match award in a World Twenty20 final?

The question remains, though: is it worth taking Twenty20 international matches seriously?

Between the two World Twenty20s (2012 and 2014) there have been 76 T20 matches; at the rate of two matches per day, this comes to about 38 playing days. For ODIs the count is 182 days (182 matches), while for Tests it soars to 335 days (67 matches). Even if we assume four-day matches for Tests the count is 268.

Twenty20 matches are the future of world cricket, they say. When the statement is made, do they mean the T20Is? Or do they mean the franchise-based tournaments played around the world? The latter may be an incentive for players (especially bygone or upcoming ones) as a regular source of income: but what about the international matches?

It’s a repetition of the same thing, over and over: names like Albie Morkel, Aaron Finch, Richard Levi, Kieswetter, Jos Buttler, Alex Hales, and Samuel Badree keep on surfacing every six months before vanishing into oblivion; when they suddenly turn up on your television screen you often find yourself asking the question: Where have I seen this guy before?

There is a reason the International Cricket Council (ICC) has decided to call the 50-over tournament the World Cup, but the shorter version World T20: the fact that there has been only one World Cup has a reason. Twenty-over contests are fine when it comes to sheer entertainment (where even seven-over bouts suffice), but do they really matter?

With the Indian Premier League (IPL) — arguably the most glamorous tournament involving contemporary cricketers — round the corner, does the India-Pakistan Twenty20 clash mean anything for the layman? The fact remains that India has won all five World Cup encounters and all three World T20 clashes against their neighbours across Wagah; however, can we really combine these eight matches and come up with a summary?

Let us face the facts: most of us do not remember that India had chased down their target of 129 with three overs to spare in the 2012 World T20; we know who won the last Orange and Purple caps, but will struggle to recall the highest scorer and wicket-taker in the World T20.

Let us not forget here that the format is the same 20-over one in each case. Let us face the fact that though people go ballistic during the various Twenty20 tournaments (the IPL is a major example), few really care for the international format, which is usually played almost as an afterthought on long tours.

Which is why this is not another India-Pakistan World Cup clash. It is another India-plays-Pakistan match in a tournament few people care for. Even if India lose this tie, they will still remain undefeated against their arch rivals: they have, after all, won all five matches — in 1992, 1996, 1999, 2003, and 2011.

The fans will watch the match, have fun, shout and cheer sixes and wickets, or in other words, do whatever they feel like. One thing, however, is for sure: they won’t take the match as seriously as they have taken the World Cup clashes. Had they taken the T20I bouts seriously, defeating Pakistan in the 2007 final would have led to celebrations in Bandra or Karol Bagh or Gariahat similar to the ones after the World Cup 2011 final.

They are not the same. Why so serious, then?

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)

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