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Vijay Diwas 2019: When India and Pakistani cricketers played for the same team in 1971

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 16 December 2019, 14:42 IST

The first cricket series between India and Pakistan happened in the year 1954 when Pakistan visited India. A few days later the India toured Pakistan. The series continued from 1954-1965, during which a total of three series were played between the two nations.

However, after this, there were no cricketing events between India and Pakistan for 17 years. After this both the countries came face to face in 1978. But in 1971, cricketers from India and Pakistan played against Australia for the World XI.

A five match Test series was played between the World XI and Australia from the end of 1971 to the beginning of 1972. Apart from three Indian players in the World XI, three players were from Pakistan, the rest were from West Indies, South Africa, England and New Zealand.

On one hand, there were cricketers from India and Pakistan playing in the same team and on the other India and Pakistani soldiers were facing each other in the war zone thousands of kilometers away from the cricket field. The situation was a very defficult one for the players.

The game of cricket is generally viewed as a gentleman’s game. Eventhough the cricketers play against each other their friendship is very much outside the field. During that time when the two countries were face to face against eachother in the war zone. The eyes were all set on the match and also on India and Pakistan players.

Even before 1971, the Indian players had a very genial relationship with the Pakistani players, and if there were any sort of disputes in and off the field, it would have seen adding to the contest and perhaps there would have been some rift in the friendship of these players.

This tour is mentioned in Sunil Gavaskar’s book ‘Idol’, the latter has clearly written on the basis of his experience that even though the players of both the nations were far away from their respective countries, the tention was on them too.

“[The] most unfortunate thing was that when the 1971 tour was on, the war between India and Pakistan broke out. A new nation, Bangladesh, was born and that was the time our friendship was put to test because we used to get conflicting reports from people as to the way the war was going. That was the time when we were tense and as the eyes of the media were on us, our friendship was seen in its true colours. All of us, Asif (Iqbal), (Asif) Masood, Intikhab Alam, Bishan Bedi, Zaheer and I used to go out together to a Pakistani restaurant for snacks and dinner and not once did we talk about the war though Bishan seemed to be understandably worried because Amritsar, where he lived, is very close to the border. Never was the war discussed between us.”

After the war in 1971, India and Pakistan came face to face in 1978. by this time the atmosphere had become quite serene. A new government had been formed in India as Indira Gandhi faced defeat and Morarji Desai was in command. The cricket series in 1978 served as a bridge to bring the two nations together.

However, the 1978 series between India and Pakistan were in controversies because of bad umpiring. During that time, with the kind reaction that the Pakistani fans manifested, it seemed that Pakistan really wanted to beat India by any means necessary.

Pakistan skipper Mushtaq Mohammad termed the win as ‘the victory for muslims around the world’. In such a situation, it was clear from the statement of the Pakistani skipper that Pakistan had not been able to stomach the defeat in the 1971 war.

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First published: 13 December 2019, 18:16 IST