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.
The home sides will face-off in another Transmanic match-up on Sunday the 29th of March 2015 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).
The Australians clinically demolished Team India’s cup hopes with an all-round display of aggression and intent with the bat and ball. They backed it up with tight fielding barring a few hiccups,
Who will it be?
New Zealand can take comfort from the fact that this is probably their best side ever and that they have beaten the Aussies in the league phases.
Now the crucial encounter is in their arch-foes’ backyard.
Do they have the gumption to seal off their World Cup campaign with a zealous kiss of victory?
The demeanor of their gum-chewing skipper Brendon Mcullum in the field against South Africa suggests so. He reminded me of tough-as-nails Steve Waugh. Will Australia drop the cup that cheers?
Michael Clark rebuilt the crumbling edifice of Oz following the exit of the best and brightest of their 3-Cup wizards.
Can Clark win his first World Cup as skipper?
Fortune favors the brave and the brave are not easily felled at home.
My pick: Australia. Can McCullum and his chums spell otherwise?
The quarters are over and the winners gave no quarter. Well, almost.
The results followed the dictates of the form book.
South Africa defied the odds and tore up the ‘chokers‘ tag. Perhaps, this is the Cup that will cheer the Proteas .
India made the semis but not before having to overcome some tight bowling in the first 35 overs. They were also the beneficiaries of three decidedly dubious decisions from the umpires. The result could have been much closer than the scoreline suggests.
Pakistan’s batting failed again but Wahab Riaz took the fight to the Australians in an inspired spell of fast bowling that had Shane Watson hopping, skipping and jumping like a cat on a hot tin roof.
New Zealand had it pretty much wrapped up when they scored close to 400 runs with Martin Guptill registering the second double-century of the tournament. The primary prima donna record holder Chris Gayle flattered to deceive in a brief stay at the wicket. The West Indies captain Jason Holder impressed one and all with his composure under pressure.
The World Cup league matches are played out and done.
The results are in. England are out.
Bangladesh are surprisingly still standing tall.
Team India have made the quarters without a blemish despite lackluster performances in the run-up to the tournament.
Trust MS Dhoni to come up trumps when it matters. And the World Cup matters, especially when you are the defending champs.
The quarter-final line-up is as follows:
South Africa have always choked in the knock-out phases. Will they do an encore? Perhaps, perhaps not. But their build-up to this point has not been smooth. They lost to sub-continental giants, India and Pakistan. Can Sri Lanka make it a hat-trick? Sangakarra can tell.
My pick: Sri Lanka. They have been finalists at the last two World Cups. Be surprised if they do not make the semis.
Bangladesh have celebrated as though they have the World Cup in their pockets. India have been ruthlessly efficient till now. Dhoni has foregone chopping and changing; it helps his cause that the team keeps winning. Indian journos and fans would not have been as forgiving otherwise.
My pick: India. I do not foresee any changes to the squad barring injuries. Each match could be the last of the tourney from now on.
Australia are favorites against Pakistan and they are playing on familiar ground. Pakistan could spring a surprise. Misbah may be no Imran Khan but he is no slouch either when it comes to inspiring his side.
My pick: Australia. Watch out for Mitchell Starc. How Wasim would love to have him bowling for Pak instead.
New Zealand have an unbeaten record and are firmly installed as bookie’s darlings.
West Indies have great batters but it’s their bowlers that have let them down. In that sense, they are much like Ireland; capable of springing surprises but inconsistent.
My pick: New Zealand.
Prospective semi-final line-up:
New Zealand versus Sri Lanka. (60/40)
India versus Australia (50/50)
New Zealand versus Australia.
Disclaimer: Cricket is a funny game. And all it needs is a stand-out performer on a single day to turn things around especially in ODI and T20 cricket. Test cricket? Now, that’s a different cup of tea, altogether.