For those who keep asking why India should play cricket with Pakistan, the answer was evident at Edgbaston on Sunday night: To prove, as Virender Sehwag famously told Shoaib Akhtar, "Baap, baap hota hai, beta beta hota hai." In other words, to showcase India's sporting superiority.
What can be a better way to embarrass a hostile neighbour than to ground its ego without firing a single shot? To remind it of the gap between a peaceful democracy and a dysfunctional sponsor of terror without spending an ounce of gun power?
Of course, to demolish — not just defeat — them in a game that Pakistan takes as an extension of its virility.
On Sunday, it was evident that India-Pakistan games have turned into no-contests, a metaphor for the cultural, economic and sporting gap between the two countries. There was a time, best remembered by Javed Miandad's last-ball six at Sharjah, when India used to take Pakistan seriously on a cricket field. But, such days, it seems, are far behind us. And the directions the two countries have taken is a parable of our times.
India have now beaten Pakistan eight times in ICC events. In fact, it would be difficult for people born after the 1990s to remember when Pakistan last won a game in an ICC tournament against India. For them, Bangladesh would look like a tougher adversary.
Going into the Champions Trophy, the rankings of the two countries were almost the mirror image of their record at ICC events. India were ranked third, while Pakistan in eighth place were at the bottom of the heap.
At Edgbaston, throughout the day, Pakistanis watched the Indians in barely-concealed awe. When the ball kept disappearing into the stands, when Rohit, Dhawan, Yuvraj, Kohli and Pandya plundered runs off them at will, while the Pakistan side watched with their mouths wide open. In the stands, the Pakistani supporters barely got the opportunity to open their mouth, while the Indians yawned because of the deja vu.
How scared Pakistan were of India was evident in the dying moments of the Indian innings. After Hardik Pandya murdered the ball with three towering sixes off Shadab Khan, raindrops started falling on Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Khan's head. There were just two balls left in the Indian innings but the Pakistan keeper-skipper seemed more interested in going back to the dressing room to escape more punishment. He flailed his gloves, pointed at the heavens and asked the umpires if it wasn't time to bring on the safety covers — both for his team and the ground. That was the picture of the day, a Pakistani skipper — Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Inzamam ul Haq et al would have buried their heads in shame — eager to run away from the Indian team.
The match was a poignant reminder of how India have turned giants while Pakistan have morphed into minnows: A team that once had great fast bowlers, spinners and batsmen, now doesn't have a single star to shine in the aura of Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jaspreet Bumrah or Umesh Yadav.
In fact, in almost every sport now, India is miles ahead of Pakistan. In hockey, Pakistan were once our scourge, especially in the days of Hassan Sardar, Salimullah, Kaleemullah and later Shahbaz Ahmed? Now we beat them regularly.
In kabaddi, where Pakistan once matched us breath for breath, India have gone too far ahead of the centre line. Now Iran gives India more headaches than any other country.
So, why shouldn't India play a country it can beat at will, ruthlessly take apart in front of a global audience and prove what Sehwag said? In my opinion, India should play Pakistan regularly, be gracious enough to invite their team to our home grounds and give them lessons in cricket, hospitality and the virtues of a liberal, peace-loving democracy that believes in live and let live, in breeding talent instead of terrorists.
Let them come, look at our beautiful cities, multi-cultural society, liberal ethos, vibrant culture and introspect how two countries that came into existence at the same time turned out to be different. Let them come and work in our films, sing our songs and go back mesmerised by our soft power and sing paeans to it in their own country.
Let us be a little more indulgent till the beta grows up. If he beats us one day, we would happily applaud his efforts to come up to our high standards.