Photo by Sarah Ansell
The cliché is that cricket is a religion in India, which has always seemed to us to greatly overstate the importance of religion in a country where such things are basically ten a paise.
Pakistan’s pretty keen on the sport too. It’s good to find things you have in common.
As an outsider, matches between these two teams are a delight. They’re shorn of the tension borne of having any real preference who wins and yet are riddled with zillions of reminders that what is happening is A Big Deal.
And the fixtures are so rare too. You can’t often say that about international cricket.
If we’re to go digging for a cloud beyond this lovely silver lining – which of course we are – it comes in the form of team selection. No Stuart Binny for India and quite inexplicably no Azhar Mahmood or Abdul Razzaq for Pakistan.
The latter (again) announced his retirement from international cricket two days ago, which must rank as a particularly magnificent effort even by Pakistani standards.
The show goes on though. Our in-depth preview is that India have the better recent record but Pakistan have been in Birmingham for slightly longer, which surely must count for something.
Wizened, 27-year-old, schizophrenic batsman cum solid, dependable bowler, Abdul Razzaq, has retired from international cricket.
There are two ways of looking at this. The first way is to say that he’s had a big barny with the Pakistani cricket board.
This might have started because he was talking to the upstart Indian 20 over league causing him to be dropped from Pakistan’s Twenty20 World Cup squad, or maybe Razzaq’s been talking to the breakaway Indian Cricket League as a result of being dropped from Pakistan’s Twenty20 World Cup squad.
Either way, it’s just one of those intermittent tiffs that Pakistan players have with their board and he’ll be welcomed back with open arms before the week’s out.
The second way of looking at it is to say that the same thing’s happened as above, only Abdul Razzaq is never in a million years 27, he’s far, far older and has therefore genuinely retired. If we’re older than Abdul Razzaq, then Geoff Boycott’s a sit-on-the-fence, indecisive southerner who can take a joke.
On the subject of Boycott, if Razzaq truly has retired it’s only right that we laud him in some way and for us, the defining characteristic of Abdul Razzaq’s cricket is his unique ability to bat like Geoff Boycott’s even-more-boring twin in Test cricket, yet miraculously transform into an over-caffeinated Shahid Afridi in one-day cricket.