The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), in a plausible attempt to subvert the topic, has claimed to call upon the International Cricket Council (ICC) with a view to having a wider ban on playing Pakistan. However, while the point may be stated on the table, there is a reason why the ICC cannot and will not ban Pakistan altogether.
Even as the clamour for the BCCI led by the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators to take actions has grown in the days after the Pulwama attack on the CRPF convoy, the BCCI had remained a largely mute spectator, even rendering the voices of the current crop of cricketers virtually redundant by what is being perceived as an unwritten gag. With players toying the line that they will play Pakistan in accordance with the stance taken by the BCCI and in turn, the BCCI claiming to await the Indian government directive in the matter, the matter has been a standoff although the issue about India boycotting Pakistan in cricket and cutting off sporting ties altogether has remained one of the central issues in the hearts and minds of the Indians still mourning the loss of personnel.
With public sentiment being at an all-time high on the issue, although previously India did play Pakistan at the height of the Kargil war in 1999 in the course of the ICC Cricket World Cup in England, once again the venue in June this year, the Pulwama attacks appear to have been the tipping point as far as the proxy war with Pakistan over the Kashmir issue has been concerned. Public opinion has sometimes been labeled knee jerk, emotional and irrational although there is good rationale behind cutting off sporting ties and thereby, cutting off a trail of supply of money as well as respectability for a state that has openly proved to be a safe haven for disruptive, terrorist elements.
Amongst the many tactics the CoA has employed as a way to calm enraged sentiment was to cancel the IPL opening ceremony to donate those allocated funds to the families of the martyrs which has only appeared to be a cosmetic solution to a deeply entrenched problem. Thereafter the BCCI has claimed that it was exploring all options, including India boycotting Pakistan at the ICC Cricket World Cup and also, setting up a proposal at the ICC imploring all cricket playing nations to boycott playing Pakistan.
However, while the BCCI’s word will carry weight, provided it takes the agenda to the ICC which has given no such indication to that effect yet, the ICC is embroiled in its own self-preservation muddle. Even if it were to incur the wrath of the BCCI -which does not seem wholly adamant on the idea of boycotting Pakistan which is explained by their passing their buck on to the Indian government, the ICC is currently dealing with a scenario in which only half of the Test cricket playing nations are competitive and commercially viable at best while the other half struggles for exposure, commercial revenue and competitive levels. With Pakistan forming one half of the most commercially viable rivalry, from its own commercial standpoint and to the end of safeguarding cricket as a viable sport that is struggling to grow globally on a competitive footing, the ICC cannot afford to cut off Pakistan, which has traditionally produced some great players as well as plays.
From the ICC’s perspective, struggling to hold onto those with the Test status has become as much of an agenda as bringing new teams and boards into the fold. In that light, perhaps even the BCCI knows that its lip service to assuage the angry Indian contingent is not likely to hold ground which is why it is unlikely to press matters too hard, even if it brings it up before the ICC.