Baseball has the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, soccer has Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, boxing once had Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, but in all of global sports, it would be difficult to find a rivalry more intense over a longer period of time than the international rivalry between the neighboring countries of India and Pakistan, in the national sport of both countries — cricket.
Now, the two bordering and frequently warring countries will meet on a cricket field for the first time in more than a year when they contest a group-stage match in the upcoming Asia Cup tournament in the United Arab Emirates on September 19, the New Indian Express newspaper reports.
The tournament will be contested in the One Day International format, with each side batting for 50 overs — with six balls bowled per over, the same format of the game they played in the final of the prestigious ICC Champions Trophy tournament in England on June 18 of last year, as CricInfo reported, a match in which Pakistan stunned its arch-rival with a 180-run destruction to take home the trophy. The two had met in a group stage match earlier in the tournament, with India taking the lopsided 124-run win in that one.
Pakistan and India went to war in 1947 over the partitioning of previously-united India into three countries, as The Telegraph recounts, India, Pakistan and what was then called East Pakistan. Another war broke out in 1965 and a third in 1971, when East Pakistan split from Pakistan to become Bangladesh, in an especially bloody conflict.
Since then, tensions and violence over the disputed Kashmir region, as well as a series of horrific terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, that have been blamed on Pakistan — including a 2008 attack that, CNN reported, killed 164 people — have kept relations between India and Pakistan on a perpetual knife’s edge.
Political tensions remain so precarious between the two countries that India and Pakistan have not faced each other in a one-on-one cricket series since 2013, as the SBS news site recounted. The two cricket-crazy countries have faced off only within multi-team, international tournaments since then.
In fact, tensions remain so high that the 2018 Asia Cup tournament, the 14th playing of the regional cricket competition, was originally scheduled to be held in India, but poor relations with Pakistan forced the Asian Cricket Council to relocate this year’s competition to the United Arab Emirates, as CricInfo reported.
As a result, the September 19 India vs. Pakistan cricket match will be played at 25,000-seat Dubai International Cricket Stadium. But while only a relatively small number of people will witness the match in person, if past India-Pakistan matches are any indication, a TV audience numbering between 300 and 400 million is likely to tune in, as India’s Economic Times has reported.