Man needs his difficulties because they are necessary to enjoy success.
- APJ Abdul Kalam
Following the Pulwama terror attack that left over 40 CRPF personnel dead and subsequent response from India –Operation Balakot– 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. The call for India to boycott the cricket match against Pakistan during the tournament or banning the latter from participating has found encouragement, not only from several of the former cricketers but also from many of the emotionally hurt Indians. After calls for India to boycott their World Cup clash against Pakistan, BCCI’s Committee of Administrators (CoA) have reportedly drafted a letter to the ICC asking the international body to ban the country from participating in the tournament altogether. With less than four months remaining to the scheduled India-Pakistan fixture at the World Cup in England, the lack of clarity on where things stand is glaring. The precedent from past instances of forfeitures at the World Cup is clear: if a team opts not to play a game at the tournament, it automatically gives a walkover to the opponent – meaning the points for the match will be awarded to Pakistan, if India are to withdraw from the tie at Manchester.
There has been divided opinion among cricket fraternity with legends like Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar urging India to play and beat Pakistan denying them any leeway in the tournament. However, there are counter-views with another former skipper Sourav Ganguly and one of country’s top wicket takers Harbhajan Singh calling for a boycott of sporting ties with the neighbouring country. The suggestions range from boycotting that match — even if that means forfeiting crucial points and damaging India’s chances in the marquee tournament — to using India’s heft in the International Cricket Council (ICC) to throw Pakistan out of the quadrennial event. But what are the chances the ICC will agree? It’s very unlikely that major cricketing countries like Australia, England and South Africa will support this demand. The possibility of India missing out on points, if they do not play Pakistan and being given a zero run penalty, could very easily keep them out of the top four qualifiers.
As things appear, it will be difficult for India or Board of Control for Cricket in India to block Pakistan from participating in the World Cup. Vinod Rai, the Chairman of the CoA, may want to “make it a cricket apartheid for Pakistan”, but the truth is that is the world does not view Pakistan in 2019 the same way as it viewed South Africa in the 1960s and thereafter. Already the warning from International Olympic Committee (IOC) is hanging on India for non-issuance of visas to Pakistani shooters for the World Cup in Delhi. India cannot take such embarrassment anymore. If India boycotts match against Pakistan, the latter will be happy, but what benefit will it bring to India? New Delhi must realize a cricket match cannot be an option to punish Pakistan.