Two of the greatest fast-bowlers to grace the cricket field have pulled out from commentary work in India after a Hindu-Nationalist group demanded an end to bilateral cricket ties between India and Pakistan.
Pakistani legends Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar announced on Tuesday that they would not be commentating during the final match in the current One Day International series between India and South Africa next week.
The duo revealed that a decision had been taken together with broadcaster Star after members of the hard-line Shiv Sena group stormed a meeting in Mumbai on Monday between the President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) Shashank Manohar and Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board Shahryar Khan.
The Shiv Sena goons demanded an end to interactions with Pakistan on and off the field – the latest in a string of demands by the group who claim that India cannot have any relations with its neighbour whilst troubles continue on the border between the two countries.
Wasim Akram’s agent Arsalan Haider confirmed that the pair would commentate during the fourth ODI in Chennai at the MA Chidambaram Stadium and return to Pakistan on October 23, two days before the final match in Mumbai.
One of India’s best-known cricket commentators, Harsha Bhogle, took to his Facebook page in typically erudite fashion to bemoan the encroachment of politics into cricket.
“Cricket on the ground is so much more pleasant than cricket off it. On the field too you can have strategy, subterfuge…whatever, but all that is concentrated into the offering the bowler delivers to the batsman”, Bhogle said.
“The batsman counters it with his skill and presence of mind. A cricket ball and a cricket bat and the magical things that its owners do with them do not understand rich and poor, one religion or another, one political power or another. That is the real glory of cricket on the ground. And while us pilgrims, us the faithful, can get disappointed and angry with what happens off the field, it must not come in the way of the joyous experience on it. To me, the essence of sport is the essence of life itself. Give it everything you have, shake hands afterwards and go home. Accept the verdict, try to get better, to change that result, but always as an honourable on-field contest. It might seem out of John Lennon “You may say I’m a dreamer….” But “I’m not the only one……” Cricket has been played that way for longer than those who don’t understand it have lived years”, he added.
Last week, Shiv Sena, which dominates politics in Mumbai, protested the arrival in the city of the former Pakistani Foreign Minister to launch his memoirs.
The organizer of the event, Sudheendra Kulkarni, was also attacked although the book launch did eventually go ahead.