India’s World Cup ‘Boycott’: Is This the Way to ‘Defeat’ Pakistan?
Cameraperson: Abhishek Ranjan
Video Editor: Sandeep Suman
It’s the country’s favourite quadrennial controversy. The topic of national discourse once every four years, splitting India at its seam, while splitting hairs on the television screen.
It is a commonly-echoed sentiment ahead of any new chapter of the titanic clash, reduced to an ICC-event-only rivalry for the best part of the last decade.
This time, the sentiment is at its turbo-charged peak – for this time, it comes after the deadliest terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir in three decades.
The Pulwama attack on 14 February, which claimed the lives of 40 CRPF jawans, has sparked widespread fury on the Indian side of one of the most fractious borders in the world, while reigniting calls to avoid any engagement with Pakistan – including on the cricket field, where the two nations are scheduled to meet in their ICC World Cup 2019 clash at Manchester on June 16.
India is clamouring.
You would think the clamour would be around the breakdown of security, a declaration of state-wide mourning, strict geopolitical measures – and it is.
But the clamour finds its most fervent pitch through a show of muscle through cricket. Without playing it.
Let’s rewind a little.
- In 2017, India played Pakistan in the ICC Champions Trophy – not once, but twice – matches that were played less than a year after the Uri attack.
- In 2011, Pakistan were hosted on Indian soil, in a World Cup semi-final no less – with the heads of state present at the venue – when India was still furious over 26/11.
- Eight years previously, India beat Pakistan in the 2003 World Cup – in a clash which took place less than 15 months after the attack on the Indian parliament.
- And there was 1999, when Indian and Pakistan played each other at the World Cup, in England too... while the Kargil war was on.
What Do India Gain – and Lose?
The precedent is quite clear-cut.
There have been only four boycotted matches in World Cup history – Australia and West Indies refused to play in Sri Lanka in 1996 in the wake of an LTTE attack, while in 2003 England chose not to go to Zimbabwe to protest against Robert Mugabe's dictatorial regime, and New Zealand opted out of their game in Kenya citing security concerns.
The points from all four games were awarded to the opposition team. Which means if India forfeit the game in Manchester, it will count as a Pakistan win.
India’s subsequent demand, of wanting Pakistan banned from the World Cup altogether, is even more outlandish.
The simple answer, is no. This ‘demand’ isn’t even legally permissible.
Article 2.3, clause (h) of the ICC constitution clearly states that each member nation is entitled to participate in events organised or sanctioned by the ICC, subject to meeting qualification criteria.
Not Just About Cricket
The conversation – and the potential repercussion – isn’t limited to cricket.
India have already denied Pakistan shooters a visa to come and compete at the ISSF World Cup in New Delhi. What has that led to?
India are now suspended from even discussing potential applications to host any Olympic-related events.
So the 2023 Hockey World Cup? Not happening.
The plans of hosting the 2026 Youth Olympic Games? Na-da.
The dreams of seeing an Olympic Games in India? Nope.
None of that happens till the discourse changes.
Oh, The Hypocrisy!
So let's say India decide against playing the group-stage game – which, according to some former cricketers of great repute is okay, as they believe India will still qualify for the semis by winning a majority of their remaining eight games.
(Three of these ex-players are Mohammed Azharuddin – who led India at the 1999 World Cup – Sourav Ganguly, who was captain for the 2003 World Cup, and Harbhajan Singh – a World Cup winner from 2011. All three of those campaigns, lest we forget, saw an India-Pakistan clash.)
It happened in 2017, at the Champions Trophy – and this time, India would only be aiding Pakistan’s chances by gifting them a win.
What if India and Pakistan are drawn to face each other in the semi-final? Or better still, the final?
Finding ‘Real’ Answers
Stopping the export of Indian tomatoes to Pakistan affects Pakistan.
Increasing import duties and removing it from the list of ‘Most Favoured Nations’ affects Pakistan.
Blocking the flow of water from the Indus River towards Pakistan – that affects Pakistan.
Our politicians have made livelihoods out of 'convenience'. Sadly, some of our past champions too are treading that path from the comfort of television studios and armchairs.