Pakistani people watch Indian trains

World Games - Sport and Colonialism (8)How India and Pakistan have their cricket rivalry

At the end of the 19th century, India is considered the "crown jewel of the British Empire". As a source of raw materials and a sales market for cheap English products. Queen Victoria, also Empress of India, has finances, education and infrastructure on the subcontinent strictly controlled. The British sport import cricket is developing into a symbol of their superiority, says the Indian social scientist Balbir Singh Aulakh.

"The land, the origin of one's own ancestors, is of great importance in India - also in sport. Hindus, Muslims and Parsees founded cricket teams in their home regions. When they met at tournaments, it was mostly peaceful. But nationalism soon grew , The independence movements grew. There were religious tensions, including in sports. The freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi was against cricket as a national sport. He did not want a British culture to be blindly copied. "

In the series “World Games - Sport and Colonialism” we want to offer insights into the role of sport during the colonial era - and beyond. (picture alliance / dpa - Frank May)

The captain's family must be under police protection

Then in 1947 the independence and division of the subcontinent into two states: India emerges in the east, largely dominated by Hindus, and in the west Muslim Pakistan. Displacement, flight and persecution cost the lives of up to one million people. A conflict arises between India and Pakistan with global consequences: wars, terror and propaganda. But also with regular approximation.

Cricket, the most important sport in both countries, has proven to be a means of diplomacy. In 1952 the Pakistani selection played in India for the first time. Two years later, the Indian team is visiting Pakistan. The games are accompanied by top political meetings. Thousands of viewers receive a visa for the country from which they were once driven. Cricket is establishing itself as a pillar of the entertainment industry: in films, songs and advertising, reports the Indian historian Kausik Bandyopadhyay.

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"Sport was always political. In the first few years, Pakistan played a few players who had played for British India before independence. All players knew that losing to their rivals could trigger violent reactions. For example, the 1996 World Cup: Pakistan lost to India. The house of the Pakistani captain Wasim Akram was pelted with stones and his family came under police protection. "

Game bans in times of war

Political escalations are repeatedly reflected in cricket. In 1991, before a game between India and Pakistan, Indian nationalists dig up the field in Mumbai, the series is canceled. Games often take place on neutral ground, in cities with many Indian and Pakistani immigrants such as Toronto or Dubai. Test games are sometimes banned by governments for years, for example during the three Indo-Pakistani wars in 1965, 1971 and 1999.

Researcher Kausik Bandyopadhyay says: "In the new century both governments approached each other. According to the negative propaganda, cricket was supposed to create positive encounters. In 2004, for the first time in 15 years, the Indian team traveled to Pakistan again. Cricket became increasingly important for political campaigns. After victories against Pakistan, Indian ministers addressed their players publicly, but other opponents did not. "

Some Muslims in India support the Pakistani team

At the beginning of the millennium, the visa conditions between the two countries will be eased. Indian and Pakistani cricketers are campaigning against polio. In 2004 they collect donations together for tsunami victims in Sri Lanka.

But the mood changes. In 2008 there was a series of attacks by Pakistani Islamists in Mumbai with more than 160 dead. An attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, Pakistan, followed in 2009. In addition, the conflict over Kashmir has been simmering for decades. Both countries lay claim to the northern territory. Pakistani fans sometimes wave the Kashmiri flag at cricket, but most players avoid the topic, says Imran Asghar, a Londoner with Kashmiri roots and a supporter of the Pakistani team:

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"One of Pakistan's most important players is the former captain Shahid Afridi. His foundation is committed to health and education. He has also worked with Indian players. But then Shahid Afridi made a clear statement about Kashmir. And the Indian players drew theirs Support back. When it comes to cricket, everyone pays attention to their words. This also applies to Muslims in India: I know some who support the Pakistani team. But not openly for fear of violence. "

Players with military hats

Of the 1.3 billion Indians, 14 percent belong to Islam. Under the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his nationalist Hindu party BJP, hostility against Muslims is increasing, including in the context of Indian league games. In 2019, Indian players face Australia with militaristic hats in response to an attack by Pakistani terrorists. Such symbols have long-term consequences, says Indian sports journalist Sharda Ugra.

"The pressure on the players in Pakistan is also enormous. The political climate demands not only sporting success, but also visible religiousness. Some players appear in public praying, others take part in the opening of mosques. One of the few Christian national players Pakistan's converted to Islam, Yousuf Youhana became Mohammad Yousuf. And political parties use players as poster boys. "

Hostilities in the former colonial power

The tensions extend beyond the subcontinent. In 1999 Indian and Pakistani troops faced each other again in Kashmir, in the so-called Kargil War. At the same time, both countries will meet at the Cricket World Cup in England. There are fights between fans in front of the stadium in Manchester. Around 1.5 million people with Indian and 1.2 million people with Pakistani roots live in the former colonial power of Great Britain. Mostly it stays peaceful, but sometimes they clash in the many amateur leagues. The English journalist Oliver Brett describes a neo-colonial perspective that is quite widespread.

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"There was a controversial newspaper article by Norman Tebbit, a minister in Margaret Thatcher's administration in the 1980s. He was upset about the children of immigrants who grew up in England but were supported by teams from India or Pakistan. He thought that morally wrong. "

In 2019 the World Cup will take place in England again, with more than 500 million TV viewers watching India versus Pakistan. A rare game now. For more than ten years, the Indian government has banned its cricket team from playing test games against Pakistan. Pakistani players do not receive a permit for the Indian professional league. Some of their officials are demanding that Pakistan be excluded from major tournaments. In 1987 both countries held the World Cup together. Currently: unthinkable.