Gautam Gambhir said that Indian fans should support the cricket team if the BCCI decides to avoid playing Pakistan and forfeits two points. “If BCCI decides that India won’t play Pakistan the entire country should be mentally ready to give those two points away,” he said.
India are set to play Pakistan on June 16 in the group stage of the World Cup. However, after February’s terror attack in Pulwama, there have been calls to boycott the match. The BCCI had earlier written a letter to the International Cricket Council in which it urged the cricket community “to sever ties with countries from which terrorism emanates.”
“I’m sure it’s going to be difficult for India to boycott (Pakistan) in ICC tournaments,” said Gambhir. “They have already stopped playing bilaterals so the maximum you can do is stop playing Asia Cup as well. England had decided to boycott Zimbabwe in the 2003 World Cup and actually forfeited the two points then.”
The 2003 World Cup was jointly hosted by South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya. England faced a great deal of domestic pressure to boycott their match in Zimbabwe due to the actions of the Robert Mugabe regime in the country. They boycotted the match and Zimbabwe went through to the next round at their expense.
The last time a bilateral series was played between India and Pakistan was the 2012/13 limited overs tour of India that Pakistan undertook. Since then, the two sides have met in the Asia Cup and ICC tournaments like the Champions Trophy, the World T20 and the World Cup.
After Pakistani shooters were not granted visas to travel to the country for the ISSF World Cup that was held in New Delhi, the IOC demanded that the Indian Olympic Association must provide government assurance that none of the participating countries would face a situation in case India host any event. Recently, wrestling wold body withdrew the Asian junior championship from India owing to the unresolved matter.
Asked if India’s stand could lead to a sporting boycott of the nation in the near future, Gambhir said that he wouldn’t mind that. “All of us need to decide if sport is more important or lives of our soldiers? I am all for facing backlash if the international sporting federations decide to ostracise us. Sentiment of the country is far more important than sports, Bollywood, art or culture.”
“If we get boycotted at sports events, we should be ready for it,” the 37-year-old said. Amid speculation that he would be getting a BJP ticket to fight the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, Gambhir said he is still undecided on taking the political plunge.
“All my life I have only played cricket and my family needs to be convinced. I have heard from people that full-time politics can change people. But I have two little daughters. I need to spend time with them. I have also heard rumours but right now, I will be doing commentary for Star Sports during IPL,” he said.