Following the latest T20 World Cup 2021 encounter between the two sides, the ugliness has been taken to an altogether different level, with religion being dragged into it.

It is often said that an India vs Pakistan match is more than a game of cricket. Some say it is an emotion, others claim it is a war. Considering the inseparable history that exists between the two countries, sparks are bound to fly when the two sides meet especially in a World Cup match. Back in the 90s, when the hype was at its very peak, effigies were burnt and players’ houses were attacked. It was hugely scary. However, following the latest T20 World Cup 2021 encounter between the two sides, the ugliness has been taken to an altogether different level, with religion being dragged into it.

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed claimed that Pakistan’s win against India was a “victory for Islam”. In a viral video, he said that sentiments of Muslims from around the world, including in India, were with Pakistan. Another shocker came from none other than Pakistan legend Waqar Younis. During a discussion, he stated that Mohammad Rizwan offering Namaz on the ground surrounded by Muslims was really something very special for him, a comment for which he has apologized. In India, Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag batted together again, this time on Twitter. They criticized people bursting crackers in India to celebrate Pakistan’s victory. Then there was the online attack on Mohammed Shami, who was told by so-called fans to go to Pakistan.

It is just a game

It has been really shocking the way things have panned out following the India-Pakistan clash. And it is hugely disappointing because, at the end of the day, cricket is a sport. Someone has to win and someone has to lose. How did religion come into all this? The cricketers from the two countries set a wonderful example after the match. India captain Virat Kohli was seen hugging Pakistan openers Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam. Team India mentor MS Dhoni was also seen interacting with Pakistan players after the game. Those were such wonderful scenes as players from both sides displayed pure sportsman spirit. Unfortunately, the bad outweighed the good as off-field controversies took precedence.

Players from both India and Pakistan must be credited for trying their best to keep the relations between the two countries cordial. Even after the 2017 Champions Trophy final, Indian and Pakistan players were seen having a fun discussion and there were smiles and laughter all around. Considering the strained relations between the two countries, it is all the more important for people from both nations to be vigilant about what they say and how they act. The players have been doing their bit. The ones not playing the game but who are passionate about it need to follow suit. Former Pakistan captain Salman Butt has been one of the saner voices to come out, who has stated that religion and culture, irrespective of the nation one belongs to, must be given due respect. We need more such mature views to dilute the hatred.

Don’t kill this beautiful rivalry

Yes, there are some serious political issues between the two countries. But let’s not bring religion at least into sports. India and Pakistan share a beautiful rivalry, which is intense on the field and cordial off it. During the 1992 World Cup, we saw Javed Miandad imitating wicketkeeper Kiran More in a hilarious fashion. And more has some fascinating stories to say about the Pakistan legend – how they met in Miandad’s home, had dinner and laughed out loud about the incident.

The 1996 World Cup quarter-final produced arguably the greatest moment in India-Pakistan rivalry when Aamer Sohail needled Venkatesh Prasad and the latter gave him a befitting reply, showing him the marching order after uprooting his stump. Even those two do not hold any grudge against each other. These are the moments that make the India-Pakistan rivalry what it is. And this is what India vs Pakistan should remain about, at least when it comes to cricket. Haters, please spare this beautiful game and this terrific rivalry.

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