Cricket matches between India and Pakistan are painted in many colours. Such matches are often presented as the biggest match.
There is no doubt that there are equal matches between the two countries and also brawls between the players, but apart from the war on the field, the relationship between India and Pakistan players also has many shades.
This relationship has remained in place since before 1947, when India was not partitioned.
Before independence, there was only one Indian team, which played for India at the international level. It had players like Lala Amarnath, CK Naidu, Abdul Hafeez Kardar, Fazal Mahmood, Amir Elahi and Gul Mohammad.
Abdul Hafeez Kardar, Amir Elahi and Gul Mohammad played for both India and Pakistan.
Lahore bowler Fazal Mahmood needs to be mentioned here. He is considered one of the first poster boys of Pakistan cricket.
Along with India, cricketers too were divided overnight
In 1947, the Indian team was to be selected for the tour of Australia. Rai Singh, Lala Amarnath, Fazal Mahmood were players of all faiths in the trial. 19-year-old Fazal Mahmood was selected for the team, but what happened next was historic.
In his autobiography ‘Dawn to Dusk’, Fazal Mahmood writes, “I was told a few months ago that I had to leave Lahore for the Pune training camp on 15 August 1947. I was in Lahore the next day, 14 August, but by then the partition had taken place. I was traveling from Lahore to Pune when millions were fleeing after partition. Punjab was burning in riots. That journey was very dangerous.”
In fact, as per the initial plan, India was to get independence later. So the Indian cricket team selectors were not ready to face the new situation.
Fazal Mahmood writes in his autobiography, “Finally the India camp of 1947 was abandoned. The challenge before me was how to get from Pune to my home Lahore, which was now a part of Pakistan, amid the communal riots? I reached Bombay by train from Pune. CK Naidu was also with me. Some fanatics eyed me in the train. They wanted to hurt me, but CK Naidu saved me. He stood up in front of everyone with a bat in hand and told everyone to stay away from me.”
CK Naidu was the first captain of undivided India and one of the legendary players. An award, the Colonel C K Naidu Lifetime Achievement Award, is given in his name.
Pakistan team toured India for the first time in 1952 after partition. In that era many players like Lala Amarnath and Abdul Hafeez Kardar, who played together in undivided India, practiced together at Minto Park in Lahore.
It is said that when the Pakistani team arrived, Lala Amarnath himself went to pick it up.
After that, the coming and going of players from India and Pakistan continued and friendship cases also continued to happen. Be it the personal relationship between Imran Khan and Sunil Gavaskar or the relationship between Javed Miandad and Dilip Vengsarkar.
Teams of India and Pakistan played Holi together
Talking about India-Pakistan matches, let’s talk about 1986-87. That time Pakistani team came to India.
A Test match was being played in Bengaluru. At that time there was a practice of one-day rest-day during Test matches.
The third day of the match was a rest day and was the occasion of Holi. In India, Holi is celebrated with great fanfare.
Pakistani players like Abdul Qadir, Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Ramiz Raja, Javed Minyadad, Salim Malik, Tausif Ahmed and Iqbal Qasim were in their hotel rooms in the morning.
Even before the Pakistani players started their day, the Indian players surrounded them with colours.
Former Indian wicketkeeper Kiran More was also a part of that team. On that day they also played Holi.
In a conversation with BBC, he said, “The first Test match was in Bengaluru in 1987. On the day of Holi, the players of both the teams turned the entire hotel red. The swimming pool was also red. Pakistani players were in high spirits. The hotel warned us and fined us too.”
“Perhaps a fine of Rs 50 thousand was imposed, which was a huge amount at that time. The next day we had a tough match in the Test match, but it was a lot of fun.”
Fazal Mahmood writes, “Sports serves to bring people together and that is essential. I, Dilip Vengsarkar and other players went to Javed Miandad’s house in 2004. I was a selector then and Javed invited us for dinner. They were fun to play with. We also used to go sledding. In the matches, they used to fight each other, but outside the field, the players of India and Pakistan lived together, had fun, sang songs.”
Friendship of Maninder Singh and Salim Malik
Experts say that if you watch the game on the day after Holi in that Test match, you will see color in the hands of many players. The Test series was won by Pakistan 1-0, but the series is also remembered by many players for the excitement of Holi.
Former Indian spinner Maninder Singh was also a part of that Indian team.
Maninder Singh said in a BBC archive interview with Adesh Kumar Gupta, “When the Pakistan team came to India in 1987, Salim Malik was batting for Pakistan and I was bowling for India. Salim Malik was trying to attack my bowling and I was trying to hit him.”
Maninder Singh also said, “The thing was that I had a close friendship with him. In the evening, when we met, we used to challenge each other jokingly. Salim Malik used to tell me that I will see you on the pitch tomorrow. I used to tell him that I will see how you make runs. That evening he also told me that no matter the pitch, I will score runs in your bowling. This used to happen between us. I dismissed Salim Malik in the Bengaluru Test.”
As the relationship between India and Pakistan started to deteriorate, the players of both the countries came and went less.
Imran and Gavaskar’s relationship
Adesh Kumar Gupta has been covering cricket for many decades.
He says, “I was in a program. Former Pakistani cricketer Ramiz Raja narrated this story. During the match against India, Imran Khan told Ramiz Raja that if you want to learn batting, come here. Gavaskar was batting then. Imran had Ramiz Raja standing at forward shortleg After half an hour, Ramiz Raja told Imran Khan that you have kept me standing here, but Gavaskar is not playing the ball. Most drop the ball. This is what you have to learn,” said Imran Khan.
Sunil Gavaskar wrote an article for Imran Khan in Times of India in 2018.
According to Gavaskar, when he told Imran Khan that he was retiring, Imran Khan said, “You can’t retire. The Pakistani team is coming to India next year. I want to beat the Indian team in India. If you’re not in the team, it won’t be the same. Come on. Let’s meet one last time. It was 1986 and we were having lunch together in London. We have known each other since 1971, when Imran was trying to get a place in the county team.”
Pakistani cricketers and Bollywood
Senior Pakistani journalist Rashid Shakoor runs a YouTube channel called ‘The Second Inning’. Pakistani bowler Sikander Bakht recalled his memories associated with India on that channel. Sikandar Bakht came to India in 1979-80.
Sikandar Bakht said, “We became friends with actress Reena Roy and her family. Once Reena Roy said that she wanted to throw a party to the Pakistani team. Amitabh, Feroze, Rekha all came to that party. Apart from this, I also became close friends with Pyarelal of the music duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal.”
According to Sikandar Bakht, “When I told him that a song from your film, ‘Chal Chal Mere Bhai…’, was playing vigorously in Pakistani schools, the film had not been released and the record of its songs had not come out. Laxmikant was surprised to hear that. He took me to the recording of Kishorekumar. He organized a special show for me when I expressed my desire to watch his film ‘Joonoon’. I was also friends with Prem Chopra. We also used to write letters to each other. Such was the relationship.”
This kind of relationship has been constant along with the rivalry between Pakistani and Indian players. We recently saw how Shaheen Afridi gave Jasprit Bumrah a special gift for becoming a father.
Earlier last year, he was seen clicking photos with the daughter of Indian women’s player Pakistani captain Bismah Maruf.
The relationship between diplomacy and cricket
Cricket has often been used as a form of diplomacy in the ups and downs of relations with India. When the Sourav Ganguly-led Indian team went to Pakistan in 2004, then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said, “Khel nahi dil bhi jitiye.”
In April-2005, the then Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf came to India to watch a cricket match, then the then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh invited the then Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to watch the 2011 semi-final.
Earlier in 1987, former President of Pakistan General Zia-ul-Haq also came to India to watch the match. At that time, there was great tension between the armies of both the countries.
Amidst these old attempts at cricket diplomacy, the Indian and Pakistani teams now play only on neutral grounds. So the match is not played in India or Pakistan, but in a third place. There are wins and losses, but the parties and movies that used to be held there are a memory of the old days.
However, some pictures keep reminding of that friendship from time to time. For example, when Bishansingh Bedi went to Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan in 2022 after recovering from illness, his friends and Pakistani cricketers Intikhab Alam and Shafqat Rana came to meet him in that Gurdwara. The three friends met years later. They hugged each other, sang old songs, cried, ate together in langar and made some new memories.
This is the same Intikhab Alam, who played for Pakistan and became the coach of Punjab’s Ranji team in India in 2004. He was born in 1941 in Hoshiarpur, Punjab. That is, the end of his life between India and Pakistan was joined back to where it started.