Should India take on Pakistan in the international sporting arena?
BCCI boss Anurag Thakur doesn’t believe so.
The BJP leader, while ruling out resumption of cricketing ties with the rogue neighbour after the latest attacks from across the border at Uri, said:
“Keeping in mind that the government has adopted a new strategy to isolate Pakistan and in view of the public sentiment in the country, we request ICC not to put India and Pakistan in the same pool of the multi-nation tournaments. If the two countries reach the semi-finals and have to clash at that time, it is another situation which can’t be avoided.”
The statement above reeks of political opportunism while ignoring commercial considerations and the future success of ICC tournaments.
While it’s no one’s case that Pakistan is a sponsor of terrorism, to ask the ICC or any other sporting body to accommodate the Indian government’s views would be setting a bad precedent—if accepted.
What happens if Bangladesh or Afghanistan make similar demands? Will the ICC oblige?
What about other sporting events such as the Olympics or World Championships? Are Indian sports persons to refuse to take on Pakistani athletes in group encounters but not in knockout rounds?
Can the US decline to play North Korea or Iran in international competitions?
India last toured their north-west neighbours in a full-fledged series in 2004. The last bilateral series occurred in 2012 with the visitors drawing the T20 series and clinching the ODIs.
India are grouped with Pakistan for the 2017 Champions Trophy.
ICC President Dave Richardson said:
“No doubt we want to try to put India versus Pakistan in our event. Its hugely important from an ICC point of view. Its massive around the world and the fans have come to expect it as well. Its fantastic for the tournament because it gives it a massive kick.”
It’s unlikely that the ICC will oblige Thakur by moving India out of the group. If the BCCI insists on making a political statement in the cricketing world, Team India might have to forfeit their game against their arch-rivals.
The men’s team are the only ones affected. The women’s side are slated to play Pakistan in a bilateral series. Should the tour be called off, their ODI ratings will be affected that may reduce their chances for automatic qualification for next year’s World Cup.
Thakur’s statement was greeted with disdain across the border.
Mohammad Yousuf said:
“I just don’t understand what he wants to say. For the last eight years India has avoided playing us in a proper bilateral series even when relations were better.”
“The ICC keeps on saying it will not tolerate politics or government interference in member boards and the BCCI President is making political statements. Either he speak as a BJP leader or BCCI head.”
An unnamed Pakistan Cricket Board official said:
“It is an out and out political statement from the President of the BCCI. We are disappointed as we have been trying hard for a long time now to normalize cricket ties with India and we have always believed in keeping sports and politics apart.”
In another news report, sources within the PCB revealed that they do not take Thakur’s tirades seriously.
“If they really don’t want to play Pakistan at all would they be willing to forfeit the match against us in next year’s Champions Trophy. No changes can be made now so what is the purpose of such statements except to play to the galleries.
…But for public consumption he (Thakur) gives different statements.”
Were the UN to declare Pakistan a sponsor of terror and impose sanctions, then it’s possible that sporting bodies across the world could declare it ‘persona non grata’, much like South Africa was for its heinous policy of apartheid.
But until then, it’s downright foolish to expect to be able to avoid Pakistan in multilateral contests.
At the same time, to simply claim that sports and politics shouldn’t mix is being naïve in this age of realpolitik.
Sports is a metaphor for war without weapons or bloodshed.
It is also a vehicle for peace such as when the Pakistani premier visited India for the crucial quarter-final encounter during the 2011 World Cup paving the way for resuming cricketing ties even if it was short-lived.
The issue at hand is complex. Simplistic statements from the BCCI chief muddy the waters especially when he must and should know better.
What she said:
“Sensible people wouldn’t associate me with Poonam Pandey.”
Mumbai-based DJ Jenny will go nude to raise funds for the Indian national hockey team. Her decision comes in the wake of the uproar against a meagre Rs. 25,000 offered to the winners of Asian Champions Trophy. The Indian team beat Pakistan in the final to clinch the inaugural edition.
There were stories of our hockey players not being able to afford the right footwear before the final. The measly prize money was only adding insult to injury. Compare this to the way cricketers are treated. The injustice is there for all to see. It’s a matter of serious concern.
A couple of portals have already approached me to buy the images. There’s also an international men’s magazine that has offered to pay me Rs 10 lakh for a nude cover shoot that would have just three hockey sticks in the frame.
Jenny is aware that her mode of raising funds will draw critics like flies to uncovered jam:
There are bound to be critics but when you come across injustice, you shouldn’t consider detractors. People in India don’t want to get out of that traditional shell. They forget we are in the 21st century.
Jenny D previously posed near-nude for a print campaign demanding reservation for women in the education and employment sectors.
What DJ Jenny really meant:
"Poonam Pandey’s a cricket-crazy publicity hound. I’m a hockey sophisticate."
“The hockey team (and I) really need the attendant publicity. At least, that’s my argument.”
What DJ Jenny definitely didn’t:
“Let’s title the campaign ‘Sense, Sensibility and Hockey’”
What he said:
“Hockey players do not have shoes to wear.”
Indian hockey team skipper, Rajpal Singh, is justifiably bitter about the treatment meted out to hockey players and other sportsmen. The proud Sikh was speaking to Gaurav Kanthwal of the Times Of India (TOI) News Network following the recent fiasco wherein returning triumphant players were offered a piddly reward of Rs. 25,000 each for bringing home the inaugural Asian Champions Trophy.
In an earlier interview, the Indian captain slammed the revised prize money of Rs. 1.5 lakhs saying:
It was total injustice. It’s not just about 18 to 20 players who go play hockey, it’s about national pride, and they should have at least treated us well. Unless they encourage and motivate players, how can we promote the game? It’s very disappointing. We ought to have been rewarded well… It was wrong and this is not the way to treat the national players. Such incentives will not only demotivate us.
Field hockey is the national sport of India.
Jab sponsorship ki baat hoti hain toh players ko pata hi nahi chalta hain ki kya ho raha hain. (When it comes to sponsorship, the players are clueless as to what’s happening.) Even when we travel abroad the sports authority of India spends and takes care of us. We wear sponsor shirts but, pata nahi kyun. Kuch nahi milta woh shirt pehenkar. (Nothing comes of wearing the sponsor’s shirt). Every player in the team’s upset.
Rajpal added that the Indian hockey skipper is hardly recognised as compared to his cricketing counterpart, MS Dhoni:
Agar hum cricket ko compare kare,BCCI ko hatake aur government ki baat kare toh cricket ko bhi utna hi izzat deti jitna hockey ko. (The government should give equal importance to hockey). But when they won the World Cup, then every state government facilitated (sic) their captain. Main apni baat nahi kah raha hoon, lekin hockey team ke captain ko kabhi bhi Dhoni ki tarah dekha nahi jaata hain. (I am not referring to myself but no hockey captain is adulated like Dhoni).
What Rajpal really meant:
“Rs, 25,000 can buy no more than two pairs of decent sports shoes. There are no real sponsors.”
“I wish the BCCI were running Indian hockey. They’d monetise everything.”
“We’re playing hockey, not hooky.”
What Rajpal definitely didn’t:
“It kind of reminds me of the glorious Indian past when our predecessors played barefoot.”
The Cricket Writers Association of India (CWAI) are up in arms.
The premier union of sports writers has written to the BCCI regarding the hectic Indian cricket calendar this year .
Beginning with the Ashes and the India-South Africa tour, followed by the World Cup and now the IPL, it has been one form of cricket followed by the other, with nary a break.
“What about the helpless journos?” cries CWAI president, Wicketless Witter.