Why a Battle with Bat and Ball Is Exactly What India and Pakistan Need

Omar Waraich in Time:

ScreenHunter_04 Mar. 30 08.11 It is difficult to exaggerate the excitement built up on both sides of the border, with anticipation of the match having dominated the news cycle for days now on a subcontinent obsessed with the sport. Hundreds of millions of viewers are expected to watch the match on television, with absenteeism at work likely to reach record highs. Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who will be at the match, has announced that government offices will close two hours before the opening ball is bowled.

Cricket is a rare source of cohesion in an increasingly fractured Pakistani society in which passion for the game is as widespread and embedded in the national identity as the embrace of Islam is. But whereas religion has proved to be a violent source of division in recent years, cricket unites Pakistanis across the dangerous fissures of ethnicity, sect and social class. But the violent fanaticism that cloaks itself in religion impinged on the sanctity of cricket when, in March 2009, the visiting Sri Lankan team was attacked by terrorists. No foreign team has toured there since. Were it not for the terror threat, Pakistan would be co-hosting the World Cup. Some say it is better that Pakistan was spared the embarrassment of hosting matches at Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium, named in honor of the Libyan dictator for his support of Pakistan's clandestine nuclear weapons pursuit.

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