Indian and Pakistani Cheveners play for peace

Indian and Pakistani scholars play cricket

In the spirit of building understanding through sport, Cheveners from India and Pakistan worked together to arrange a cricket match in July. Inspired by their national teams playing each other in the ICC Champions Trophy, the scholars swapped their books for their bats to participate in a symbolic cricket match.

Scholars from Pakistan and India, who were studying all over the UK, independently scheduled, organised, and funded the event, which took place in July in London's iconic Regent's Park.

‘My initial reaction to the idea of a Chevening India vs Chevening Pakistan cricket match was of mixed emotions,’ Arjun Chatterjee, an Indian scholar who was at the University of Sussex, confesses.

‘I was a bit sceptical and unsure of whether I should participate on moral grounds.'

- Arjun Chatterjee

In the end, the mutual desire to build bridges whilst enjoying a friendly afternoon of sport prevailed and two teams of scholars proudly and respectfully represented their nations united by Chevening.  

'It was the love of cricket that was at the core! Both nations have had legends of the game, and playing a match between us at the heart of London implied much more than mere sports,' Arjun says.

Captains Nauman Yousuf and Ravi Kant Gupta toss the coin

‘We played two matches and sadly Pakistan won both!’ India’s captain Ravi Kant Gupta (who was studying at UCL at the time) sportingly concedes. ‘Many people on our side played very well, but [Pakistani captain] Nauman Yousuf was hitting too many sixes!’

Badar Ullah, a Pakistani Chevening Scholar studying at the University of Manchester at the time, notes that both sides played well, ‘but Nauman was the star performer due to his good captaincy, backed up by playing a captain’s innings in both matches.’

A sporting match

Pakistan’s national ODI side later went on to win the ICC Champions Trophy, beating India in the final. Both teams’ impressive international rankings highlights the cultural significance of the sport in the region. The Chevening Scholars who participated that day were united in the belief that the human-to-human contact that sport facilitates is crucial to building understanding between the two nations.

‘Cricket is a very popular sport in the Indo-Pakistan region and whenever Pakistan and India play, it attracts the attention of millions of people from both sides of border,’ Badar says.

'This sport has the potential to bring people of both countries closer.’

- Badar Ullah

Arjun highlights the comradery of both sides to assist a Pakistani scholar who picked up an injury during the match, and the cordiality continued long after the bails came off for the last time.

Bhaskar Pant takes a selfie with the teams

‘After the match, we all went for dinner together,’ Ravi says. ‘For so many reasons, we’re not always able to come together. However, because this match forged relationships between us it was a good initiative.’

He adds that the match made it easier for them to relate to each other afterwards.

‘We had just seen each other in tough times, under the pressure and passion that sport brings out in us. It makes you realise that we are able to work together with everyone playing their part, without the need for enmity, mistrust, or hatred.’

Putting your foot on the other side

‘India and Pakistan come from the same culture, speak the same languages, and have similar traditions,’ Ravi says. And yet, as highlighted by Arjun, ‘as we were playing that match, our countries had guns pointed at each other at the border’.

Cricket is a sport defined by lines and boundaries, but Ravi speaks of stepping across lines and boundaries in order to foster genuine interpersonal relationships that can lay the foundation to mutual understanding, and ultimately peace.

‘Humanity is built upon mutual trust, and that comes from starting to see things through perspectives other than your own.’

- Ravi Kant Gupta

‘It’s important to foster dialogue and understanding and that starts with meeting each other in person. If you only stand in your corner, and they in theirs, all you’ll know about each other will come through second-hand news. If you cross the boundary and put your foot onto the other side, you can learn about each other through personal interaction,’ Ravi adds.

Badar opines that peace is a pre-requisite for development. ‘As actions speak louder than words, through this gesture, Cheveners from both countries have demonstrated that the people of both countries believe in peaceful coexistence’.

The birth of a shared tradition?

Earlier in the year, Chevening Scholars played a football match against Commonwealth Scholars in a showdown which might be repeated on an annual basis. Ravi and Badar have hopes that this well-intentioned cricket match between Chevening Scholars from two of South Asia’s cricketing powerhouses will itself become an annual fixture.

‘I hope this tradition is continued by future Chevening cohorts.’

- Ravi Kant Gupta

‘It could even become a tri-nation series between Indian scholars, Pakistani scholars, and our British friends that we make whilst studying here,’ Ravi adds.

Photo by Bhaskar Pant (@bhaskar_pant1)

Photo credit: Bhaskar Pant

The UN International Day of Peace is observed around the world each year on 21 September and is a date for all humanity to commit to peace above all differences.

When asked who he thinks would win if Indian scholars played Pakistani scholars in 2018, Badar’s response is poignant:

‘Peace will win.’

'Because this match forged relationships between us it was a good initiative.’

- Ravi Kant Gupta

Captains Nauman and Ravi Kant shake hands