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Comment: Camouflaging the spirit of gentleman’s game!

Updated March 15, 2019

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The Indian cricket team had worn camouflage caps during their third ODI match against Australia. — AFP/File
The Indian cricket team had worn camouflage caps during their third ODI match against Australia. — AFP/File

POLITICS should not interfere with sports. And sports should impact politics, said Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Anyway, the statesman in Putin had allegedly vested interests in organising the 2014 Sochi Winter Games which is another day debate to discuss.

From MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli to Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh, symbolic tributes and noble gestures often serve as a dogma. And, anything beyond is a gainer for political vendetta and seemingly a trivialised show-off, in the name of sport.

Indeed, many cricketing heroes have served the cause, quietly in their respective domains, away from any outrage.

It is sports which have produced heroes amid the healthy and massive landscape of sporting culture when politically motivated lobbyists stooped low in different eras.

There was a time when sports happened to be quite simplified. With the time, it has blatantly gone into the business by becoming a multi-billion dollar trade before sparking fresh international debate on being overwhelmed by politics for a precipitous fall as an eternal and compelling truth.

It’s the sporting culture that’s missing with political interference playing a spoilsport by overwhelming the game.

The on-field rivalry is not only a befitting way to witness such games, but it is their way of handling a game with an organised manner.

Interestingly, sportspersons wield influence which was visible when American sports icon and cycling deity Lance Armstrong and his campaigners aimed to depose the United States Anti-Doping Agency. Rest is history.

Back in August 2012, Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles on using performance-enhancing drugs; corticosteroid triamcinolone.

At a benign, unparalleled success could lead many to the disgrace even who’s enjoying a preferential status—for one season after another.

Either, it could capture the heart or hurt the sentiments amid the swirling sporting spirit.

India and Pakistan being as the neighbouring countries have all it to exude with things continues to simmer following the airstrikes.

Amid all the happenings, the Men in Blue players have donned Army camouflage caps to pay tribute to the soldiers, but what it followed was the nationalistic fervour amid the shake-up of a gentleman’s game. The message was loud and clear on attaining the political riposte.

By far, it explains to a larger extent and the political influence has gained a lot over the past few decades with cricket a severe hit.

From the precincts, the soldiers have done a lot with utmost reverence and selfless service; they have sacrificed themselves—for guarding their nation and what they desire: is best in everything.

Amid the stratagem, there’re things based on objectivity and such ‘caps’ do not serve a purpose in the cricketing folklore.

It’s the jingoism that has dominated the broadcast medium amid heightened tension since February 14 following a despicable attack in Pulwama, and that has certainly not subdued following the unfolding of an unfortunate turn of events and with this, it has further intensified the war-room doctrine with ethics of journalism being mottled.

Solely, it has to be the sports figures who could lead to glory in times of distress. The sports fraternities are capable of weighing in on sanity and sports diplomacy—to ease off tensions between India and Pakistan.

As soon as the proceedings for third One-day International (ODI) between India and Australia were at a pace, that too, at MS Dhoni’s hometown Ranchi, Virat Kohli proudly walked out while flaunting the Army camouflaged cap embossed with BCCI crest at the toss time. The cap was presented by none other than honorary Lieutenant Colonel conferred the honour back in 2011—to his teammates before Kedar Jadhav gave a salute to MSD on receiving special Army-style cap.

It’s the first time any international team has worn camouflaged caps to pay tribute to troopers. A charity has often been deemed as a noble gesture which does not require any media hype or an acknowledgement in the same breathe.

At the same time, Kohli has often worn his debut Test cap before leading from a forefront for a cause.

I think the first point; the media integrated this pseudo sense of ultra-nationalism in everyone. Many television anchors call out cricketers to speak on political issues. It’s the Pulwama that had made everyone to speak out. But before that, this has been constant plan to make sure notable names say something about the issue or against Pakistan to authenticate their nationalism.

To atop it, Indian cricket team should’ve just given their earnings to the kith and kin of fallen soldiers.

However, India at the behest has sought permission before donning the camouflaged caps.

The Board has discussed it thoroughly with the ICC while deeming it as a part of a charity (fundraising effort). There’s ‘no breach’ of regulations owing to a match, according to an ICC spokesperson.

So, considering it as a provocative act stands null and void even though ICC does not permit any other caps than national jersey.

Interestingly, in the commentary box, Sanjay Manjrekar had distributed the caps among co-commentators which included Australia’s Matthew Hayden in the distinguished panel.

Following a lot of happening Pakistan has asked ICC to take action in this process.

In such a contrast, England spin-bowling all-rounder Moeen Ali was banned for wearing wristbands which carried a message of ‘Free Palestine’ and ‘Save Gaza’ message back in 2014 during the third Test against India in Southampton.

Here’s how section G1 of ICC suggests:

“The ICC equipment and clothing regulations do not permit the display of messages that relate to political, religious or racial activities or causes during an international match,” ICC said in a release back then.

“Approval shall not be granted for messages which relate to political, religious or racial activities or causes,” the ICC regulation suggests.

Interestingly, in July 2014, England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) had cleared Ali to wear the bands on the humanitarian ground.

Although, match referee David Boon told Ali by citing the former is free to express himself beyond the cricketing field.

Back in January 2017, a South African leg-spinner was reprimanded by the World cricket governing body International Cricket Council by revealing the t-shirt of Junaid Jamshed, a late religious preacher from Pakistan.

The incident happened when he celebrated a wicket of Sri Lankan batsman Asela Gunaratne during the second Twenty20 International at the Wanderers.

There’re things to do in the name of charity and that too beyond the stratagem. Anyway, there’s a significant difference between humanitarian testimonial and donations. The veterans of the game have donated so as, the legendary batsman Tendulkar away from the media hype by reaching out to them.

The Indian cricket team has annihilated top-notch teams by relying on sheer domination. The metamorphosis of Indian sports history has left an indelible mark over the decades. But such stints make it hard to digest for many in certain quarters.

Over the years, the distinct teams have had observed silent protest by wearing black armbands in the times of distress and national tragedies.

Unequivocally, there’s nothing to baffle about when things were at stake which led to an emotional appeal far and wide on such a rationale with sportsmen being the partisans to it.

Symbolic tribute often serves as a dogma and beyond the political vendetta, but pushing cricketers for the political leanings and sympathy could lead to dangerous terrain.

The celebration on donning the camouflaged caps wouldn’t be a new thing as the sentiments push for an unprecedented act in the name of ultra-nationalism which took too long to switch caps.

Unfortunately, the linking of political tinge and sports could fail us all miserably fundamentally with the clout of taking sides to loom large across boards.

Tahir Ibn Manzoor is a New Delhi-based Sports Journalist. He tweets @TahirIbnManzoor

Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2019