There was a time when the popular adage that sports and politics must not mix seemed the right thing to say and adhere to. But given the gravity of the escalating and chronic skirmishes that have cost lives, a loss that cannot be replaced, it is time for the BCCI to not on the ICC’s word but rather on its own merit.
Many arguments have been put forth about the idea of boycotting Pakistan on the field being a knee jerk reaction. While in the past, the stance may have been that sports could indeed perhaps serve as a bridge between nations, time has proven once too often with great pains that nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, countless of lives lost before the Pulwama attacks and after it have shown that sport has only become a side distraction to a very deep, troubling situation that is nothing short of proxy war played out over decades with no imminent solution at hand.
The idea of India boycotting the match against Pakistan on June 16th at the ICC Cricket World Cup is not a far-fetched notion. Precedent was set when teams such as Australia and the West Indies chose to forfeit their two points respectively by choosing not to travel to Sri Lanka during the ICC Cricket World Cup in 1996. Players with black arm bands chose to protest their nation’s own regime at the risk of threats to themselves and their families with relocation the only solution thereafter.
What will make a great impact than even those two teams is the fact that if the BCCI takes the call this early that India will not play Pakistan in the World Cup unless the terrorist organizations are brought to book, it will inevitably dent the ICC in the long term because it takes away the revenue equation from one of the sport’s greatest rivalry, if not the most commercially pulsating one.
Although there is a time when sports battles are settled on the field, it seems rather misplaced, even from the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, to suggest that India should restore pride with the team beating Pakistan for two points. It is hard to justify this kind of avenging scenario when the families of forty-four brave soldiers are grieving an irreparable loss and Indian cricket decides to sleep with the enemy.
It is a risk that India will take should they decide that they will not play Pakistan. Two points could indeed cost them the World Cup when the eventual tally is made. India have an unblemished record against Pakistan in cricket World Cup contests. This could leave that record with an asterix against the two points to Pakistan. But when the straw that breaks the camel’s back is now firmly front and center, not only cricket but also, other sports in the country could take a similar stand, stating not to play against nations that harbor state-sponsored terrorism. Ultimately it has a global impact because terrorism is rarely ever an isolated story.
Rather than asking for the ICC to ask other nations to endorse the idea of boycotting Pakistan altogether which it will not given how incestuous cricket is under the current scenario, the BCCI will perhaps make the loudest siren call if it stands unequivocally that it will not support Pakistan or its interests, even in sport, unless peace is restored to the valley. Thereby, the BCCI will have set the precedent for other nations, boards and sports who carry with them the burden of the history of their nations.
With the BCCI’s stand not to play Pakistan even in a multi team event, it will ultimately cost cricket and the cricket’s governing body, albeit temporarily, thereby setting in motion corrective measures that could have long lasting impact outside of the sport.