The Men in Blue will be locking horns with arch-rivals Pakistan in their marquee clash of the ICC World Cup at Old Trafford on Sunday. This will be the seventh time that the two arch-rivals will be meeting each other in the showpiece event and India have a comfortable 6-0 lead at the moment. However, more than the statistics, it is the recent tension between the two neighboring cricketing powerhouses that has defined the backdrop of the upcoming game.
India and Pakistan had a serious confrontation on the political and diplomatic fronts earlier this year in the wake of a deadly suicide terror attack on a convoy carrying Pakistani personnel in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir. There were air skirmishes and other serious clashes in the diplomatic circles and even the pre-World Cup game TV ads on either side saw influences of the tension. There were even calls in India to boycott the Pakistan game as a protest against the Pulwama attacks. With India’s latest game against New Zealand getting washed out, a walkover would have been a disaster for Virat Kohli’s men.
There was also a controversy related to India wicketkeeper MS Dhoni donning keeping gloves in their first game against South Africa bearing an insignia of the armed forces. The ICC asked the BCCI to get it removed while protests were also heard in Pakistan. Dhoni removed the gloves in the next game against Australia and Ehsan Mani, the Pakistan Cricket Board chief, feels the incident wouldn’t have an effect on Sunday’s proceedings.
Fans on both sides of the border were growing excited over Dhoni’s act with the Indian fans and a section of the media even lashing out at the ICC saying it had diminished its national pride by asking the cricketer to remove the insignia. However, Dhoni himself did not drag the matter further and removed the gloves to comply with the ICC’s protocol.
We don’t need to make gestures
Mani rubbished the reports that the members of the Pakistan team were planning for special celebrations in the India match as a mark of retaliation and said he would have never allowed something to happen on those lines.
“You won’t get any spill-over from the Pakistan side. They are there to play cricket, full stop. We don’t need to make gestures. I have always seen cricket as a tool to create goodwill and better understanding. We should keep it like this. It’s a sport. It’s a gentleman’s sport. That’s how it should be,” Ehsan Mani, a former ICC president, was quoted as saying by the Indian Express.