India Insight

Will Singh add Pakistan to his list of triumphs?

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has long wanted to secure what his dozen predecessors have failed to achieve: lasting peace with arch rival Pakistan. But, if the WikiLeaks cables are to be believed, Singh probably remains isolated in pursuing his dream.

In a week when officials from both countries meet to resume talks broken off after the 2008 Mumbai attacks and when the two prime ministers play “cricket diplomacy“, have the chances for peace improved?

There seems to be too much loaded against the initiative. The enmity between the two nations is rooted in their very existence and peaceniks are a handful. There is little political gain and much risk to be had from pursuing peace.

Both sides have hardened positions on Kashmir, the Himalayan territory that is claimed in full but ruled in part by both. The two countries have fought two of their three wars over the region. New Delhi accuses Islamabad of aiding separatists and wants this to end. Pakistan denies any help apart from moral and diplomatic support.

And while Singh appears to be the only Indian leader the Pakistanis respect and trust, he has little political clout. His Congress party and the government run on the dictates of powerful party chief Sonia Gandhi. A series of corruption scandals and high prices have eroded his image as a leader above India’s murky politics and put him in the opposition’s firing line.

from Afghan Journal:

Standing on the warfront: when sport divides India and Pakistan

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In the run-up to Wednesday's cricket match between India and Pakistan, passions are running high on both sides of the border and in the diaspora which is following their teams' progress in the game's biggest tournament.

How to demolish Pakistan was the title of a programme aired by an Indian television network  where former players and experts discussed ways to win the high-voltage game that will be played in the northern Indian town of Mohali, within, in a manner of speaking, of earshot distance of the heavily militarised  border with Pakistan. 
  
Pakistan television in similarly wall-to-wall coverage ran a programme where one of the guests advised the team to recite a particular passage from the Koran before stepping out to play that day. There is even a story doing the rounds in Pakistan that an enraged Indian crowd put a parrot fortune teller to death for predicting a Pakistani victory, according to this report.

All fair in sport, you would argue, and especially for two countries that take their cricket very seriously. But this contest has an edgy undertone of antagonism that flows from the tension in ties since the Mumbai attacks of 2008 carried out by Pakistan based militants and for which New Delhi seeks greater redress from Pakistani authorities.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India-Pakistan – cricket, spooks and peace

cricket  refugee"Cricket diplomacy" has always been one of the great staples of the relationship between India and Pakistan. The two countries have tried and failed before to use their shared enthusiasm for cricket to build bridges, right back to the days of Pakistan President Zia ul-Haq, if not earlier.

So when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced last week that he was inviting Prime Minister Yusuf  Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari to watch the semi-finals of the Cricket World Cup in Mohali, India, the temptation was to dismiss it as an old idea.

Yes, it would be the first visit by a leader of either country to the other since the November 2008 attack on Mumbai.  Yes, the invitation came at a time when relations between the two countries were already thawing. And yes, the Middle East is changing so fast that you would expect --  in the way that warring siblings do -- that India and Pakistan would bury their differences at a time when the outside world has become so unpredictable.

from Photographers' Blog:

Clash of two cricketing titans

The second quarter-final of the cricket world cup was a clash between two huge teams. India, the world's no. 1 team with its power batting lineup. Australia, three-time world champions who have reigned supreme over the game for 12 years. Whoever won, it would be a huge story. Whoever lost, it would be a huge story.

Police officers control a crowd of spectators outside Sardar Patel Stadium ahead of the Cricket World Cup 2011 quarter-final match between India and Australia, in Ahmedabad March 24, 2011.        REUTERS/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds

We headed to the stadium at around 10am, well before the 2.30pm start. Traffic was backed up a long way. There was only one road leading to it and we weren't sure if it was fans waving flags and blowing horns, buses and four wheel drives, scooters or the cops that were in charge. Fellow photographer Andrew Caballero-Reynolds got nervous because on his last 3 trips to stadiums, the vehicle he's been in has blown a tire. Lucky we made it in one piece. There were thousands of fans queuing in the searing heat to get into the ground, watched over by the usual stick-wielding police in khaki suits.

I installed a remote camera high on a TV tower above the stands, hooked up by usb cable to a laptop, both powered by a 25m extension cord we rented for 150 rupees (about 4 dollars) from a local shop that usually rents them out for weddings. The remote would capture the action from a different angle and would fire whenever I wanted it to from my field side position. I had the laptop running on a data card so the pictures would automatically be downloaded and transmitted to our editing system live, so that we didn't have to wait for the break inbetween innings to get the disk and edit pictures. It was going to provide some great pictures from the match.

from Photographers' Blog:

Cricket snippets

We're into March, and the ICC Cricket World Cup is well under way. Just 32 more days to go (yes, thirty-two!) until the tournament comes to a close with a final showdown in Mumbai on April 2.

Reuters' lean mean team of photographers have fanned out across three countries in the subcontinent - India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka - as we get stuck into covering the first round of the tournament. Photographers Adnan Abidi, Andrew Biraj, Amit Dave, Andrew Caballero-Reynolds, Dinuka Liyanawatte, Rupak De Chowdhury, Danish Siddiqui and myself have started crisscrossing our territories. Philip Brown, who is on an "embed" with the English cricket team, has already covered two cities. Altaf Bhat in New Delhi is anchoring the operation as the main editor for the tournament with me lending a hand on days when I'm not on the move, shooting training or covering a match.

Covering cricket in the subcontinent is not as straightforward as one might think - for one thing, we're worried about tight travel schedules and the possibility of flight delays - which thankfully haven't happened yet.

from Photographers' Blog:

2011 Cricket World Cup: Let’s play

People stand in queue to buy tickets for the cricket World Cup in Dhaka January 2, 2011. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj

As the cricket World Cup draws closer, the pulse rate of the players and their fans from the 14 participating nations is surely rising.

The build up to the quadrennial event, the equivalent of the FIFA soccer world cup, has been nothing short of spectacular. Despite the game grappling with a spot-fixing saga and an under-prepared Eden Gardens stadium in Kolkata losing the hosts a marquee match against England, the enthusiasm of having a “good game” seems to have taken over. Like the previous editions, the 10th ICC world cup will also see some of the great cricketers saying “Goodbye” to the gentleman’s game and all of them would want to lay their hands on the coveted trophy.

Fans will be seeing Ricky Ponting, Muthaiah Muralitharan, Sachin Tendulkar and probably Jacques Kallis for the last time at a world cup but it will be Sachin, who will want to etch his name on the winners’ trophy more than anyone else. The master blaster has achieved almost everything that is there to achieve in the game of cricket but the world cup has remained elusive.

Cricket going global? Think again

As the cricket World Cup gets under way, the jury is out on the relevance of such a tournament in a developing region, and for a sport played seriously in only a dozen countries.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has worked hard to expand the game’s reach across the globe, but that attempt is yet to show substantial results. The popularity of the game is so limited globally that the word still means a bug to the non-cricketing world.

The primary argument is that cricket is mostly popular only in former British coloniesCRICKET/ and there is hardly any chance for the game to take the world stage, particularly when its classical format lasts for five days.

from Photographers' Blog:

Before a ball is bowled

Reuters Photographer Parivartan Sharma takes us to the town of Meerut, north of Delhi, where cricket balls are still being made the old-fashioned way - by hand. India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will co-host the 2011 Cricket World Cup starting on February 19.

The Making Of A Cricket Ball - Cricket World Cup Preview from Vivek Prakash on Vimeo.

LIVE BLOG: India vs South Africa

India and South Africa lock horns in a five-match one-day cricket series which should help finalise their World Cup squads.

Captains Graeme Smith and Mahendra Singh Dhoni plan to use the series to assess the fringe players who may be needed during the tournament in Asia which starts next month.

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