India's action on the cricket field was in no way a show of jingoism. It was simply solidarity shown for the victims of a very heinous act perpetrated by killers employed by Pakistan as part of state policy.
The Pakistan government is weak. It has always been so, browbeaten and coerced by the army-ISI-terrorists. It is also petty and frivolous. And ill-informed.
How else would you explain Pakistan demanding that the International Cricket Council take punitive action for the Indian cricket team wearing Army camouflage caps during a One Day International against Australia in Ranchi last week?
"The world saw that the Indian cricket team wore military caps instead of their own. Did ICC not see this? We think that it is the ICC's responsibility to take notice of this without the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) bringing it up," Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said.
Pakistan's information minister Fawad Chaudhry went a step further, warning that the Pakistan players would wear black armbands to protest what he calls "Indian atrocities in Kashmir", and called for the ICC to ban India.
A rattled Pakistan, one understands, is hard-pressed to post some semblance of a fight after being battered by the Indian Air Force (IAF) in Balakot as a punishment for its act of terror in Pulwama. That's precisely the reason it has been sending drone after drone to snoop on possible Indian troop build-up and Indian military installations.
Pakistan has been pushed to a corner internationally, with several nations calling for tough action against the perpetrators of Pulwama, with even its 'all-weather friend' China deserting it while the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) named Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) for Pulwama.
India stole Pakistan's thunder when the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) laid out the red carpet for Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, while Pakistan, which is a founder-member of the Islamic grouping, made a long face and stayed away, protesting India's presence, showing how petty it can be.
Sadly, Pakistan does not realise that it is walking on thin ice itself, and does not have the locus standi to call for a ban on the Indian cricket team. Clearly, it comes as a reply to India threatening to walk out of the cricket World Cup if Pakistan was not thrown out of the tournament for its government using terror as a state policy. There were calls for an apartheid-like boycott the 'terrorist nation'.
While India's concern was genuine and came after years and years of putting up with Pakistan's rogue ways, Pakistan's counter demand woefully lacks substance and is preposterous to the core.
"Cricket is being politicised." That has been the grouse of the Pakistani establishment and indeed Pakistan-sympatisers in India.
International sports bodies have by and large been uncomfortable with sports being used to convey messages that have the faintest political colour.
In 2014, England all-rounder Moeen Ali was asked to remove wristbands that carried 'Save Gaza' and 'Free Palestine' slogans, despite the England and Wales Cricket Board's (ECB) appeal that it was more a humanitarian act than one carrying a political message.
In the FIFA World Cup last year, Swiss players Xerdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka and captain Stephan Lichtsteiner were fined hefty sums for making politically provocative gestures to celebrate goals in a match against Serbia. The Serbian FA was also fined for “display of discriminatory banners and messages” by fans and its president and the national coach also had to pay for their comments after the Switzerland match.
Virat Kohli and Co donning army caps doesn't fall in that category of the sports field being used for political provocation. It is NOT politicisation of cricket. The Pakistan establishment was too consumed by hatred for India to realise the difference. Pakistan also didn't know that India had taken the ICC's permission for wearing the camouflage caps.
The gesture by the Indian cricket team was solely made in honour of the 40-plus Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) men who died when their convoy was hit by a JeM suicide bomber in Pulwama on February 14. It was a charity fund-raising effort. The Pulwama attack was the biggest terrorist attack on the Indian security forces in Jammu and Kashmir.
Kohli and his team wearing the army caps was not politicisation of the game. It was rather a show of India's respect and pride for its defence forces. Every country ought to hold its military in high regard. India's action on the cricket field was in no way a show of jingoism; it was not a flexing of muscles, as Pakistan made it out to be, there was no political message that was given.
It was simply solidarity shown for the victims of a very heinous act perpetrated by killers employed by Pakistan as part of state policy. If India were wrong in doing so, they would also be 'wrong' to wear black bands in the honour of let's say earthquake victims, or those killed in a plane crash. It would also be 'wrong' for sports team captains to publicly pledge 'no tolerance to racism'.
Had it been about jingoism, India could well have revoked the Rs 1079-crore sponsorship deal with Chinese mobile phone-maker Oppo, had it come to such a pass. After all, China has also been hostile to India and very close to Pakistan. Some people have ridiculed Team India sporting army caps and Oppo logos on their jerseys at the same time, but the very fact that they did shows that sending any political message was not what was on the minds of Kohli and Co.
Pakistan's discomfort stemmed from the guilt of having supported and aided terrorist attacks on India and also from the fear of India's military response. The symbolism inherent in the use of the army caps spooked Pakistan and its sympathisers. Kohli and Co wearing army caps is certainly not a dangerous thing and not an extension of the Indian government's policy.
(The views expressed in this article are the author's own and doesn't necessarily reflect that of MyNation)
Last Updated 13, Mar 2019, 10:48 PM IST