Following the Pulwama terror attack that left 40 Indian CRPF personnel dead, emotions have been running high across the country. Unsurprisingly, Indian cricket fans have been no exception to this and there is a growing clamour for the Indian cricket team to boycott its match against Pakistan at the ICC World Cup 2019, in Manchester on June 16. From former cricketers to politicians, several voices have spoken on the matter, and the general consensus has been that terror and cricket cannot go together.
Kapil Dev: Former Indian skipper Kapil Dev on Friday joined the debate regarding India’s clash against Pakistan in the upcoming ICC Cricket World Cup. The all-rounder said that it is the government who will decide that the team will go ahead with the clash and urged people to refrain from passing their individual opinions.
The skipper, who led to India to their major World Cup triumph in 1983, was quoted by ANI as saying: “To play or not to play is something which does not have to be decided by people like us. It has to be decided by government. It’s better if we don’t give an opinion and leave it to government and concerned people. What they decide will be in interest of the nation. We’ll do what they want.”
Sachin Tendulkar: The batting legend said that he would “hate” to see India give away two points to Pakistan by forfeiting the match. “India has always come up trumps against Pakistan in the World Cup. Time to beat them once again. Would personally hate to give them two points and help them in the tournament. “Having said that, for me India always comes first, so whatever my country decides, I will back that decision with all my heart,” said Tendulkar in a tweet.
Harbhajan Singh: The former India off-spinner said that “country comes first” and India should avoid facing their arch-rivals in the World Cup. “There is no need for any relations with Pakistan, let alone cricket,” Harbhajan told India Today. “Don’t play the World Cup match with Pakistan on June 16 — country comes first for all of us and we are all standing with our forces,” he said, adding, “Pakistan has been promoting cross-border terrorism and this attack was unbelievably shocking.”
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad: Prasad called for a complete ban on cricketing ties with Pakistan. “I cannot make any comment [on cricket issues] except to say those who are demanding it has some justification. You can see many films and concerts have been cancelled. Things are not normal. If things are not normal, the jhappiyan-pappiyan (hugs and kisses) issues have always been there,” Prasad was quoted as saying by India Today. “Since it’s an international tournament, the ICC and our Indian cricket board (BCCI) have to take a call after consideration with our security establishment,” he added.
ICC Chief Dave Richardson: The ICC CEO hinted that there won’t be any change in the schedule. “There is no indication that any (of the) matches at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup will not go ahead as planned,” Richardson said. “Sport, in particular, cricket, has the wonderful ability to bring people together and unite communities and we will work with our Members on that basis,” he added.
Former India allrounder and UP Minister Chetan Chauhan: “World Cup, Olympics is decided years ahead. We don’t play bilateral series with Pakistan. The best thing to do is to throw Pakistan out of the World Cup. Every country is worried with the growth of terrorism in Pakistan. It’s a problem for everyone. We should exert pressure on ICC to throw Pakistan out of the World Cup. If Pakistan do not play the World Cup, it won’t make any difference. If India do not play, the ICC will suffer losses. India bring in 65 to 70 per cent of the sponsorship,” Chauhan told Aaj Tak.
BCCI treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry: “The BCCI had resolved at the Special General Meeting that the members participation agreement shall not be executed without the authorization of the general body of the BCCI and the BCCI reserves all its rights regarding the MPA and regarding its participation in any other multi-nation tournament or games not covered by the MPA. That answers your question,” he told Hindustan Times.
Former India batsman VVS Laxman: “We have to rally behind our security forces. In this time of mourning, we have to stand with the families of the soldiers killed. We have to make sure that terrorists and terrorism end once and for all. And hence, cricket is the last thing on my mind,” he said at the WION Global Summit.
Former India captain and Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) official Sourav Ganguly: “This is a 10-team World Cup and each team plays matches against every other team and I feel if India doesn’t play a match in the World Cup, it won’t be an issue,” Ganguly told India TV. “I feel it will be really difficult for ICC to go on with a World Cup without India. But, you also have to see if India has the power to stop ICC from doing such a thing. But, personally I feel a strong message should be sent. And, whatever reactions came from the people of India…was right. There is no chance of a bilateral series with Pakistan after this incident. I agree that after this attack, India should not only stop playing cricket, hockey or football with Pakistan but should cut all ties with them.”
Former BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel spoke to The Indian Express and said, ““How can you expect India to play Pakistan at the time we have lost so many of our brothers in these cowardly terrorist attack. I am of the firm view that India should not play Pakistan in the coming World Cup.”
“If we play the World Cup, then it’s clear that game is bigger than the country’s image. For me, India is first and it’s not only me who has such a sentiment. Ask any Indian now, and they will be of the same view. Cricket will only take place if terrorism is stopped. I hope the current COA and BCCI takes note of it. There is always a limit to everything and this time all limits have been crossed,” he added.
Indian Premier League (IPL) chairman Rajiv Shukla also reiterated that possibilities of bilateral matches between the two countries are nil unless the government gives its nod. “Our position is very clear. Unless the government gives us nod, we are not going to play with Pakistan. Sports should be above all these things but if somebody is sponsoring terrorism, obviously it will affect sports also,” Shukla told reporters. When asked if India will play against Pakistan in the World Cup, Shukla said, “That we can’t tell you right now. The world cup is far away. We will see what happens.”
Former India player Aakash Chopra: “It’s a question whether India should be playing against Pakistan in the World Cup or not. Do we need to answer it now? The wounds of the attack are very fresh. What has happened in Pulwama has hurt all of us. We are all pained and saddened. We will always make decisions based on emotions. But do we need to make that decision right now? I don’t think we are obliged to make that decision today,” he told India Today. “All progressed nations in the world don’t mix politics with sport. They don’t use sports as a vehicle to push their political agenda. I firmly believe India is a first-world country and not a third-world country. We are not a regressive nation in any way. We are a proud nation that actually is mature enough to distinguish between the two (sport and politics).”
“We are already not playing bilateral cricket with them. You want to be the world champions. You want to be the best. What will be the worth of that World Cup trophy if you haven’t beaten Pakistan along the way?”
“So I think, three and half months down the line, India will be in a position to play cricket with Pakistan and beat them in the game of cricket. We are a better nation and a developed nation. India should be playing (the World Cup tie).”
Former India captain Mohammad Azharuddin: “If we are not playing Pakistan in bilateral series, we should not play them anywhere. The World Cup cannot be bigger than the country,” he told Aaj Tak. “There was tension…there was the war on. We were scared the spectators would start fighting. When we won, the soldiers celebrated. If you play Pakistan, play everywhere. Otherwise, don’t play them anywhere. ICC and BCCI should resolve this quickly,” he said about the time when India playing Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup.
Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar: “Who wins if India decide against playing Pakistan in the World Cup? And I am not even talking about the semis and the finals. Who wins? Pakistan win because they get two points. India have so far beaten Pakistan every time in a World Cup, so we are actually conceding two points when by beating Pakistan, we could make sure that they don’t advance in the competition,” he told India Today.
“(But) I am with the country, whatever the government decides, I am with it totally. If the country wants we shouldn’t play Pakistan, I am with them. Where does it hurt Pakistan? It hurts them when they don’t play a bilateral series against India. In a multi-team event, India will lose by not playing them. The entire matter needs to be looked at with a little more depth, I can understand emotions are running high.”
“But what happens when you don’t play them? I know India are strong enough side to qualify even after conceding those two points but why not beat them and make sure they don’t qualify.”
India national player Yuzvendra Chahal: Speaking to ANI, Chahal said, “It’s not in our hands, if BCCI says, we will play if they say no then we won’t. I think it is high time, we need to take firm action. I am not saying all people there (Pakistan) are at fault but those who are responsible should be acted against,” he added.
Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed: Sarfraz said that his team’s match against India should be played as per schedule and that cricket should not be targeted for “political gains.” “The India and Pakistan match should be played as per schedule as there are millions of people who want to watch this game. I just don’t think cricket should be targeted for political gains,” he said.
Virat Kohli: Speaking at the press conference ahead of the 1st T20I against Australia, India skipper Virat Kohli said: “Our sincere condolences to the families of CRPF soldiers who lost their lives in #PulwamaAttack. We stand by what the nation wants to do and what the BCCI decides to do. We are really shocked and sad what happened. Whatever the government and board decides, we will go by that and respect that. This is our stand on this particular issue.”
Ravi Shastri: “It’s entirely left to the BCCI and the government. They know exactly what is happening and they will take a call. We will go by what they decide. If the government says it’s that sensitive you do not need to play the World Cup, I will go by my government,” India cricket head coach Ravi Shastri said to Mirror Now.
Jhulan Goswami: Veteran Indian seamer Jhulan Goswami said that BCCI has left it on the “central government to decide” on the matter. She also spoke on the India-Pakistan bilateral series, which will be played between the neighbouring nations as part of the ICC Women’s ODI Championship. “That (Indo-Pak clash) BCCI will decide. We don’t know what will happen against Pakistan and I cannot comment on that,” Jhulan said.