Should India give a walkover to Pak in cricket World Cup?

by February 19, 2019 0 comments

cricket World Cup

With demands for the BCCI to not play Pak at World Cup, does that mean we should simply give a walkover?

As tempers continue to flare over the Pulwama attack carried out by Jaish-e-Mohammad under the protectorate of Pakistan, discussion boards are abuzz with opinions on how to punish the perpetrator, diplomatically, economically and  culturally. Now the strategy to isolate Pakistan has spilt over into sports and the only discipline which is religion on both sides and has been used to settle many sub-continental duels — cricket. Especially after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, a cricketing legend himself, forgot the values of the game and is yet to comment on the latest Pulwama attack. Now the Cricket Club of India (CCI), an affiliate of the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI), has demanded that India not play Pakistan at the ICC World Cup this summer. It even blacked out pictures of Pakistani cricketers from its premises in Mohali. Fans too are demanding that we not play Pakistan and in fact, cede two points to that team, as a walkover. While the fragility of Indo-Pak relations is being tested on a taut and thin thread that cannot be elasticised any further, the larger theory of sports being an apolitical space which must actually transcend borders is not holding. Rather, the larger sports economy, in this case the cricket economy, is being used as a coercive tool to isolate Pakistan and bring it down to its knees on supporting Jaish and its chief Masood Azhar. As it is, IMG-Reliance almost overnight pulled out of broadcast contracts to provide satellite feed of Pakistan Cricket League (PCL) matches. The logic being applied here too is much the same. With India a big booming market for spectatorship, which holds the barometer of the much-loved TRPs, and us owning much of the rights of the distribution feed, ICC sure cannot afford to alienate India. But can it stop it from keeping Pakistan in the championship? Unlikely. Though it makes for good optics internationally, fact is nobody else will be invested as deeply in India’s hurt or a bilateral issue in a multilateral championship. Besides, we have stopped playing Pakistan since 26/11 except at multi-nation championships. And this is the World Cup, so we would want our boys to win on their talent and steam and crush the Pakistanis instead of giving them a walkover.

A  far more effective way of choking a financially-strapped Pakistan now would be to appeal to the global finance task force and build a case for World Bank and IMF to not grant loans. And now that Imran Khan is crowing how Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad-bin Salman cannot let down Pakistan and will fund it generously, we need to tell the prince when he visits here that investments can’t be easy without mutual gains and concessions.   Besides, as we have mentioned before, we need to make this point with China too, which values our market more than anything else. Meanwhile, cricket itself can become one of the soft tools of outreach to the Valley, where youth engagement and their participation in local matters have been completely sidelined with the obviously prioritised security imperatives. But if Pulwama has shown anything, it is that it is time to arrest the drift and mount a social reconnect programme to counter the Jaish propaganda, especially in the time of fake news and the high consumption of digital platforms in the Valley. Parvez Rasool has made it to the national side while Qamran Iqbal (17) has made it to the under-19 national side. More stars are shining through in the IPL. In the end, this will be the greatest  game that we will win against Pakistan.

Courtesy: The Pioneer

Writer: Editor – The Pioneer

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