Cricket fans with their faces painted with the Indian and Pakistani national flags
Cricket fans with their faces painted with the Indian and Pakistani national flags. Reuters

All eyes are now riveted on the upcoming Wednesday’s key semi-final tie between India and Pakistan in the tenth edition of the World Cup Cricket tournament to be played in the north Indian city of Mohali.

The game assumes significance as diplomatic relations between the two nations are at a low ebb following the involvement of Pakistani nationals in the Mumbai blasts more than two years ago. The contest
has also generated interest because of the huge money that is involved in the media as these countries in the sub-continent are widely regarded as cricket-playing nations. With the exit of likes of Australia and South Africa from the contest, the contest is likely to all-Asian contest with the lone New Zealand fighting for a place in its first final.

Advertisers and cricket pundits are banking heavily on a India win against Pakistan which would give them additional exposure besides changing their fortunes. Media is backing India heavily for the same reason given that they are also the eyes and ears of the public given the huge following that the game enjoys in the sub-continent especially India.

While the first semi-final tie between New Zealand and Sri Lanka is now under way in Colombo, the Wednesday’s contest between traditional rivals India and Pakistan has generated such widespread media frenzy that it has even attracted the wrath of cricket governing body International Cricket Council (ICC). The cricket body has canceled the media accreditation of television channels following allegations
that television channels were using more footage than was agreed upon.

“There have been serious violations of news access guidelines, as well as media terms and conditions, which the non-rights holders had signed on and agreed to abide by while applying for media accreditation for the ICC Cricket World Cup,” an ICC spokesperson was quoted as saying in the Indian media.

Be the ICC’s move as it may, India and Pakistan have played each other four times in the previous editions of the World Cup with the former winning all the contests comprehensively. However, this is for the first time that the two cricket-crazy nations are playing each other in the sub-continent soil notwithstanding the fact that India is one of the co-hosts of the tournament that is running into about six weeks. Interestingly, Sri Lanka, which is also one of the other co-hosts, is playing in another semi-final tie against New Zealand.

Although former cricketers and pundits say India is under tremendous pressure playing at home against Pakistan, they also aver that Indians enjoy a distinct advantage playing at home given the poor diplomatic relations between the two countries and the possible backlash that they may encounter on the cricket ground for their direct involvement in abetting terrorism against India in the Mumbai blasts.
Both the nations are now engaged in a fresh diplomatic dialogue in the backdrop of the semi-final.

As part of this exercise, the two neighbors began home-secretary level talks to discuss pending issues relating to security amid indications that both sides may come out with some promises to move forward. Although New Delhi has been pushing for punishment to perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai terror strikes on a priority basis, the issue does seem to have side stepped following the resumption of fresh diplomatic talks.

Coming back to the game, India have reached the finals of the World Cup Cricket tournament only once in 2003 after the historic win in 1983 at the Lords. In 2003, they lost to Australia twice including the
final but won all their matches comprehensively. India have made it to the semi-finals only once barring the above mentioned instances when they co-hosted the World Cup Cricket tournament in 1996. They lost to Sri Lanka who eventually went on to become the cricket champion team.

On the other hand, Pakistan surrendered to Australia in the 1999 World Cup finals after lifting the trophy in 1992 at Australia. Pakistanis made it to the semi-finals in the 1983 World Cup only to lose the
match. Pakistan bowed out of the tournament in 1996 after losing to Australia in the semi-finals. With one of the Asian nations likely to figure in 2011 World Cup cricket tournament, India stands a good chance of making it to the final and win the tournament.