Why Ram Guha is wrong about naming India-Pak series after Sachin

During the recently-concluded one-day series between India and Pakistan (the same one which had Pakistan beat India resoundingly in the first two ODIs and then lose a low-scoring third ODI), the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, Zaka Ashraf, suggested that the two countries play each other regularly, for what might be called the Jinnah-Gandhi Trophy.

Now, in a wonderful column on ESPNCricinfo, historian Ramachandra Guha has argued that calling the series the Jinnah-Gandhi Trophy wouldn’t make too much sense for two reasons.

To the idea of naming it for the fathers of their nations there are two serious objections. One is cricketing - neither Gandhi nor Jinnah really had much interest in the sport. The other is political - namely, whose name should come first.

He, then, goes on to add that perhaps the way out of this conundrum is to name it after Sachin Tendulkar a la The Frank Worrell Trophy that West Indies and Australia play for.

Does it matter what we call an India vs Pakistan Test series? PTI

No man has defined India-Pakistan cricket in the way that he has. Or for so long - he first played Pakistan in a Test match in 1989, and he most recently played against Pakistan in the World Cup semi-final of March 2011. For 22 years, in all forms of the game and at all venues, how much Sachin scored and when he got out often decided which way the match would go.

It was a nice read and you should definitely go through it but there are some points that Guha doesn’t quite take into account.

1. Let’s build a rivalry first and then worry about names. England and Australia care about the Ashes and plan for it in advance. There is history between the teams and because of that it matters. India and Pakistan, on the other hand, have no real running rivalry. Yes, it’s good cricket and attracts a good crowd. But that’s about it. They have played 58 Tests against each other, India have won 9, Pakistan have won 11, 38 were drawn. India have won just one series in Pakistan (2003-04) and Pakistan have won just one series in India (1987). If it sounds boring then that’s because most of the time, it has been that way. At the end of the day, a rivalry isn’t about numbers though, it is about people.

2. Granted that Sachin Tendulkar has played a huge role for India – but do people in Pakistan really respect him as much as they do in India. It’s a pretty far-fetched thought Mr. Guha. It’s one thing to do it on television and for the reporters and it’s quite another to actually mean it. To say that they respect him more than Zaheer Abbas, Imran Khan, Javed Miandad or Wasim Akram is sheer fallacy.

3. The Ashes has been played between England and Australia since 1882. And almost everyone knows the origins of this term too -- An obituary in a British newspaper, The Sporting Times, stated that English cricket had died, and the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia. The English media dubbed the next English tour to Australia (1882–83) as the quest to regain The Ashes. But what is the origin of this India-Pakistan rivalry? How and where did it begin? If we are to name it, then it would be apt to decide on what the moment was.

4. And what’s in a name, really? All this naming business is just for the advertisers and the marketing guys. It’s also probably a way to suck up to someone. Recently for instance, India and England competed for what everyone thought was the Pataudi Trophy. But the BCCI said that England’s Test series in India are contested for the Anthony de Mello Trophy. Did anyone care? We cared about losing the series, not about what the series was called.

5. Last but not the least, sporadic matches don’t make a rivalry. As long as relations between India and Pakistan continue to remain the tense, India are unlikely to tour Pakistan regularly and Pakistan are unlikely to come to India very often either. The so-called ‘rivalry’ will be restricted to ICC tournaments like the World Cup, haphazardly cobbled together series' like the ones that just got over, the Asia Cup and the like. In the meantime, dust will settle on the ‘you-call-it-what-you-want-to’ Trophy.

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