Cricket World Cup: India-Pakistan players’ friendship off the field

Whenever India and Pakistan meet on a cricket pitch, the world witnesses another instalment of what is one of sports’ most fiercely contested rivalries.

And when the two meet at a World Cup, as they will on 14 October in the western Indian state of Gujarat, anticipation is driven to feverish extremes.

The nuclear-armed neighbours share a fraught relationship and have fought three wars since 1947, when India was partitioned after independence and Pakistan was created.

But despite the frosty relations, their cricketing history is replete with stories of love, respect and camaraderie between the two teams.

Cricket’s Asia Cup, which concluded last month, saw Pakistani bowler Shaheen Afridi give Indian fast bowler Jaspreet Bumrah a gift for his new born baby.

The gesture and the image won hearts of both Pakistani and Indian fans, as did another image that went viral in 2022: players of the Indian women’s cricket team huddled to see Pakistani skipper Bismah Maroof’s baby off the field. The photo melted hearts on the internet.

In the past, long periods of tensions between the South Asian countries have impacted the game, often meaning that the teams couldn’t play each other. Cricketing ties between the two countries were suspended after the Kargil war in 1999.

In 2003, India toured Pakistan for the first time in nearly 15 years after a peace initiative by the former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. But the relationship between the countries soured again after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks in which 166 people were killed. India blamed Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba for the attacks.

Since 2012, there hasn’t been a bilateral series between the two cricketing greats. The countries have only faced each other at International Cricket Council events and the Asia Cup.

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