India vs Pakistan

All those romantics who believe that Indians and Pakistanis are full of love for each other and its only politicians who have queered the pitch, often also wonder how good things would have been if the subcontinent hadn't suffered partition.

One of the arguments that they put forward to justify their rose-tinted view on this subject is that a united India would have produced the best cricket team in the world. They talk, almost in a salivating manner, of the prospect of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid playing alongside Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis in the same team.

These people argue that even a side like the Australian team of 2000s would have been incapable of beating a side representing united India. But is this vision correct and accurate? Would a joint India-Pakistan team have been the best side in the world?

The assumption that it would have been is based on the premise that a team is simply a sum of its parts. They think just having the best individual players makes a team great. This is not an absolute lie. A team does need great batsmen and bowlers to possess the necessary weapons and ability to win matches.

However, there also needs to be a common vision and a great team spirit to elevate a side from merely a bunch of talented individuals to world beaters. The example of New Zealand is very instructive. Often lacking the firepower of other major sides, the Kiwis still manage to remain a top team due to their work ethic and team unity.

Pakistan cricket, Pakistan, PSL 2017, PSL final, Lahore final
Pakistan cricket has consistently found itself in a crisisReuters

Now, an Indian team, representing the undivided country, would have had a host of great players. But would the team have functioned as smoothly as Indian teams generally have in the last two decades?

The answer is no. Pakistan cricket, for a long time, has been beset with all sorts of problems. From nepotism to erratic selection, to arbitrary decision making, every sort of issue has arisen to prevent the Pakistan team from reaching its potential. What's more, the ego of players and factionalism has also been rife in the team over the years.

Compared to this, while the Indian players haven't been completely saint-like, it cannot be denied that when it comes to indiscipline they are well behind their Pakistani counterparts. Apart from minor issues coming up now and then, generally, the team has stayed united.

If Pakistan and India were one country, all the travails of Pakistan cricket would have infected the Indian team as well, and rather than being the well-oiled machine it is today, it would have been a mid-ranking side constantly trying to douse fires of its own making.

Also, a united India would have produced other problems. Radical Islamic elements would have demanded that Muslims be given proper representation in the team. This would have made the selection of players and the composition of the selection panel a highly-volatile issue.

Leadership, in such a scenario would have been regarded as merely about keeping the flock together rather than motivating the side. The team of united India would have been a mid-ranking side constantly bursting at the seams due to its inner-contradictions. Just as well that such a team doesn't exist.