When it comes to India Pakistan cricket matches, these matches are painted in many colors. It is often presented as the biggest collision.
Of course, there have been tough competitions between the two countries and also altercations between the players.
But beyond this battle on the field, there are many more shades to the relationship between the players of India and Pakistan.
And this relationship has been going on since the partition of India did not take place before 1947.
Before independence, there was only one Indian team which played for India at the international level.
It included players like Lala Amarnath, CK Naidu, Abdul Hafeez Kardar, Fazal Mahmood, Amir Ilahi and Gul Mohammad.
Abdul Hafeez Kardar, Amir Ilahi and Gul Mohammad played for both India and Pakistan.
Here it is important to mention Lahore bowler Fazal Mahmood who is considered one of the first posterboys of Pakistan cricket.
The Indian team was to be selected for the 1947 tour of Australia. Rai Singh, Lala Amarnath, Fazal Mahmood, players of all religions were in the trial.
At the age of 19, Fazal Mahmood was also selected in the team. But what happened next was historic.
In his autobiography ‘Dawn to Dusk’, Fazal Mahmood writes, “I was told a few months in advance that I had to come from Lahore to Pune on 15 August 1947 to attend the training camp. On 14 August 1947, I was in Lahore. But by then the partition had taken place. I was going from Lahore to Pune at a time when lakhs of people were migrating after partition. Punjab was burning in riots. That was a very dangerous journey.”
In fact, according to the initial plan, India was to get independence later, hence the Indian cricket selectors were not ready to deal with the new situation.
Fazal Mahmood writes in his biography, “Finally the India Camp of 1947 was dissolved. The challenge before me was how to return from Pune to my home in Lahore, which had now become Pakistan, amid religious riots. I came to Bombay by train from Pune and CK Naidu was also with me. I was noticed by some fanatics in the train who wanted to harm me. But CK Naidu saved me. He stood in front of everyone with his bat and told everyone to stay away from me.”
CK Nayudu was the first captain of undivided India and was one of the legendary players and the Colonel CK Nayudu Lifetime Achievement Award is named after him.
After partition, Pakistani team came to tour India for the first time in 1952. In that tour, there were many players like Lala Amarnath and Abdul Hafeez Kardar who played together in undivided India and used to practice together in Minto Park while living in Lahore.
It is said that when the Pakistani team came, Lala Amarnath himself went to receive them.
After this, players from India and Pakistan kept coming and going and stories of friendship also kept being created.
Be it the mutual relationship between Imran Khan and Sunil Gavaskar or between Javed Miandad and Dilip Vengsarkar.
When India and Pakistan team played Holi together
Talking about India-Pak matches, let us talk about 1986-87 when Pakistan team had come to India.
A test match was going on in Bengaluru. This was the era when there used to be one day rest day between test matches.
There was rest day on the third day of the match and it was the occasion of Holi which is celebrated with great pomp in India.
The players of the Pakistani camp were in their rooms in the morning.
Players like Abdul Qadir, Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Rameez Raja, Javed Miandad, Salim Malik, Tausif Ahmed, Iqbal Qasim were in the hotel.
Before the Pakistani team could start the day, the Indian camp made noise with its colours.
Former Indian wicketkeeper Kiran More was also a part of that team and he also played Holi that day.
Talking to BBC, he said, “There was a Test match in Bengaluru in 1987. On the day of Holi, both the teams had painted the entire hotel red. The swimming pool had also turned red. Pakistani players were very excited. The hotel warned us and also imposed a fine.
The fine was probably Rs 50,000, which was a huge amount at that time. The next day we fought toughly against each other in the match. But it was fun.
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Fazal Mahmood further writes, “Sports works to unite people and this is an important task. I, Dilip Vengsarkar and other players had gone to Javed Miandad’s house in 2004 when I was a selector and he had invited me for dinner. It was fun playing with them. We also keep sledding, especially between players from India and Pakistan. We compete completely in the match. But outside the field, players of India and Pakistan live together, have fun and sing songs.
Friendship of Maninder Singh and Salim Malik
Experts say that if you watch the game the next day of Holi, you will see many players having painted hands. Pakistan won this test series in 1987 by 1-0. But many players of that series also remember him for the hooliganism of Holi.
Former Indian wicketkeeper Maninder Singh was also a part of that Indian team.
While talking to Aadesh Kumar Gupta, Maninder Singh had told in BBC archive interview, “When Pakistan team came to India in 1987, Salim Malik was batting for Pakistan and I was bowling for India. Salim Malik used to try to attack me and I used to try to dodge him.
Maninder Singh had also said, “Now the thing was that I had a great friendship with him also.” When we met in the evening, we used to challenge each other for fun. Salim Malik used to say that I will see you on the pitch tomorrow and I used to say that I will see how you score runs. That evening he told me that no matter what the pitch is, I am going to score runs against you. So this continued between us. I had dismissed him in the Bangalore Test match.”
As the relations between India and Pakistan deteriorated, the visits between the two countries reduced.
Imran and Gavaskar’s relationship
Aadesh Kumar Gupta has been covering cricket for the last several decades.
He says, “I was in a program when former Pakistani cricketer Rameez Raja narrated this incident. During the match against India, Imran Khan told Rameez Raja that if you want to learn batting then come here. Gavaskar was batting then. He placed Rameez Raja at forward short leg. After half an hour Rameez Raja asked Imran Khan where have you made me stand. Gavaskar is not even playing ball. Dropping all the balls. Imran Khan said this is what you have to learn.”
In 2018, Sunil Gavaskar wrote an article for Imran Khan in The Times of India.
According to Gavaskar, when he told Imran that he was retiring, Imran told him, “You cannot retire now. Pakistan is coming to India next year. I want to defeat India in India. If you are not in the team then this victory will not be the same. Come on, let’s face each other one last time. It was 1986 and we were having lunch together in London. “We both know each other since 1971 when Imran was trying to make a place in the county team.”
Pakistani cricketer and Bollywood
Senior Pakistani journalist Rashid Shakur runs a YouTube channel named The Second Inning. On his channel, Pakistani bowler Sikandar Bakht shared his memories related to India, who came to India in 1979-80.
Sikandar Bakht says, “We became friends with actress Reena Rai and her family. Once Reena Rai said that she wanted to host a party for the Pakistani team. Amitabh, Firoz, Rekha all came to the party. Apart from this, I had become a great friend of Laxmikant-Pyarelal.
Sikandar Bakht further explains, “When I told him that your song is being played very well in Pakistani school buses – Chal Chal Mere Bhai. At that time this film was not released nor was the song released. Laxmikant was surprised. He took me to Kishore Kumar’s recording. When I requested him to watch the movie Junoon, he organized a special show for me. I was friends with Prem Chopra ji and we used to write letters to each other. So there was such a relationship.”
This kind of relationship has been going on continuously along with the competition between Pakistani and Indian players. Like in the Asia Cup, we saw how Shaheen Afridi gave a special gift to Jasprit Bumrah on becoming a father.
Earlier last year, Indian women players were seen posing for photographs with the daughter of Pakistani captain Bismah Maroof.
Diplomacy and Cricket
Cricket has also been used as a form of diplomacy many times in the ups and downs of India’s relations. When the Indian team under the leadership of Sourav Ganguly went to Pakistan in 2004, the then Prime Minister Vajpayee had said that win not only the game but also the heart.
In April 2005, Pervez Musharraf came to watch an India cricket match and in 2011, during the semi-final match, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called the then Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
Earlier in 1987, Zia ul Haq, the former President of Pakistan, had also reached India to watch the match when there was tremendous tension between the armies of the two countries.
Amidst these old efforts of cricket diplomacy, now the teams of India and Pakistan play only on neutral grounds, that is, the matches are neither held in India nor in Pakistan but at some third place. There are competitions between the two teams, there are wins and losses, but the gatherings and movies that used to take place at each other’s places have become a memory of old times.
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Still, some pictures keep reminding us of these friendships from time to time. For example, when Bishan Singh Bedi, after recovering from his illness, went to Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan in 2022, where his Pakistani cricketer friends Intikhab Alam and Shafqat Rana came to meet him in the Gurudwara – three friends who met after years, hugged, sang old songs, cried, together. Had 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. The same Punjab where he was born in Hoshiarpur in 1941. That means, between India and Pakistan, the end of his life came back to the same place from where it had started.