Disinclined to forfeit the World Cup tie against Pakistan this June, the BCCI Friday was working to join the government’s efforts to isolate it the way South Africa was ostracised by the world for Apartheid. With India working to isolate Pakistan in the wake of the February 14 Pulwama attack, BCCI CEO Rahul Johri Friday wrote to the International Cricket Council (ICC) urging cricketing nations to “sever ties with countries from which terrorism emanates”.
While sidestepping direct references to avoiding the June 16 Pakistan game, the Committee of Administrators (CoA) Chairman, Vinod Rai, spoke about Indian cricket board’s long-term game plan that, he thought, “reflected the present day sentiment of the nation”. Speaking to The Indian Express on the match against Pakistan, he said, “Why should we shoot ourselves in the foot by not playing? We should seek their (Pakistan) ouster and remove them from the cricketing committee.”
“I look at it (the letter sent to the ICC) from the point of view that we are able to isolate Pakistan. Make it a cricket apartheid for Pakistan on the terror issue. The idea is to work hand in hand with the Indian government to isolate Pakistan in the cricketing community,” he said.
South Africa’s international boycott, that started in the mid-50s, was because of the country’s racial segregation policies. Then, the International Olympic Council kept South Africa out of 1964 Games and the cricketing world too followed and boycotted the country in the 70s. It was only in the early 90s, with the dismantling of Apartheid and the release of Nelson Mandela, that South Africa travelled to India for their first sanctioned cricket tour in 21 years.
Asked about the reasons behind this unusual extreme stand, which is unprecedented in Indian cricket, Rai said that the present board was different and “felt strongly about the issue.” Hinting at a change in the BCCI mindset, the Supreme Court-appointed chairman of the CoA and a veteran bureaucrat said, “The present dispensation feels strongly about it because we reflect the sentiment of the nation. We are not a closed cricket community, we represent the nation.”
Sources said that by showing the willingness to respect the World Cup fixtures and preferring a parallel strategy of campaigning against Pakistan globally, the BCCI is avoiding the situation the national shooting body and the Indian Olympic Association find themselves in as India hosts a World Cup in the capital. By denying visas to Pakistan’s shooters, the country invited sanctions from the International Olympic Committee and lost the right to host future international events.
Had India kept away from the World Cup game against Pakistan, they would have disregarded the strict Members’ Partnership Agreement (MPA), a water-tight terms and conditions contract that all the teams signed in 2015. Violating the agreement would have meant a long-drawn legal battle and a massive loss of revenue to the ICC, which indirectly means a big hole in the BCCI’s pocket.
An official involved in the discussion to draft the ICC letter said, “The Olympics association took away the quota and India had to suffer, we didn’t want to be in that situation. So first, we want to have a consensus of the cricket world and then act. It isn’t possible to just one fine day ask to remove Pakistan from the World Cup.”
According to the ICC constitution, a country’s membership is only terminated “if the Board of Directors considers that the member’s breach of its obligations as a member is sufficiently serious to warrant termination.”
By raising the issue of players’ safety at the World Cup in the letter, the BCCI has more than hinted they weren’t planning to skip any game in England in June. Later in the day, Sachin Tendulkar seconded the BCCI’s stand by tweeting: “India has always come up trumps against Pakistan in the World Cup. Time to beat them once again. Would personally hate to give two points and help them in the tournament.”