Ehsan Mani, who was handpicked by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to head the country’s cricket board, has assured that the controversy over the Indian Army insignia on wicket-keeper M S Dhoni’s gloves will not impact Sunday’s World Cup game between India and Pakistan.
A week after a Pakistan minister referred to the gloves and said “Dhoni was not in England for Mahabharat”, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman struck a reconciliatory note. “You won’t get any spillover from the Pakistan side. They are there to play cricket, full stop. We don’t need to make gestures. I have always seen cricket as a tool to create goodwill and better understanding. We should keep it like this. It’s a sport. It’s a gentleman’s sport. That’s how it should be,” Mani, a former ICC chairman, told The Indian Express.
Dhoni sported the Army Special Forces insignia, the Balidan badge, on his gloves for India’s first game against South Africa but removed it for the next game after the ICC pointed out that it was in breach of regulations.
Mani said he was also against the teasers aired by ICC host broadcaster, Star Sports, to promote the India-Pakistan clash. “I think this is for the ICC to take note. Star is the host broadcaster. They are not an Indian broadcaster, they are the broadcaster of the ICC. They should be fair to all teams. That (the teasers) is not part of cricket,” Mani said.
He also condemned a World Cup-linked Pakistan TV channel spoof about IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, who was held captive in Pakistan for close to 60 hours after his aircraft was shot down in action along the LoC that followed the Balakot air strikes. “I haven’t seen that. But obviously it’s not in the spirit of the game if it is true,” he said.
Indian tennis star Sania Mirza had called the ads aired on both sides of the border “cringeworthy”. On the much-anticipated India-Pakistan game, Mani said: “The players are friends, even BCCI and PCB officials get along well. The political interference is unfortunate. Till the time we play each other in our own countries, I have no doubt that people-to-people contact will make the difference. The match between India and Pakistan is not a war. It should be a celebration of cricket.”
The PCB chief denied reports that Pakistan players were planning a special celebration to mark the fall of Indian wickets after Dhoni brought his support for the armed forces to the pitch. “No, actually that report was not correct. There was no suggestion (from the Pakistan players) at all. Because obviously, they know this is something I will not tolerate. These are mature cricketers and they are friends of each other. As people, they know each other. They played against each other from the time they were Under-19s. They have a relationship of their own, which is a good relationship,” he said.