AA Edit | Indo-Pak standoff the ‘new normal’

The Asian Age.

Opinion, Edit

It can never be an easy decision to take about sending an Indian cricket team to Pakistan

The play of India-Pakistan politics has seeped in (Photo: AFP/Representational)

The BCCI seems to have taken an early stand on Team India not visiting Pakistan to play in the 2023 Asia Cup if the event is hosted in Pakistan as scheduled. The play of India-Pakistan politics has seeped in and the BCCI’s secretary, who is also president of the Asian Cricket Council, is trying to convince other members to take the tournament to a ‘neutral’ country.

What the board secretary has to say is of enormous significance as he is the son of the home minister, and the chances are he is being guided by what could be official policy regarding the national team playing in Pakistan. What makes the issue trickier is India will be hosting the 2023 World Cup and Pakistan is using that as a bargaining chip by threatening to boycott the event if India won’t play in Pakistan.

This has all the ingredients of a Mexican standoff as any call for not playing in an ACC or ICC event goes against the grain of the pragmatic position both Asian arch-rivals take on participating in multilateral sports events wherever they are held, while not committing to playing on each other’s soil in the last 10 years.

The line between government policy and BCCI’s independent stand, if it has one, gets blurred as the ruling party has total ‘control’ of the cricket board now. Given the fragile security situation and the inherent risks of Indians playing there, it can never be an easy decision to take about sending an Indian cricket team to Pakistan. But what such an early call by the BCCI secretary suggests is the hard line against ties with Pakistan that the ruling party has taken consistently has not changed.

Any romantic notions of using cricket to ease the path to diplomatic ties and talks are dead even before they can take shape. Pakistan, which ordered its chess players home from the Olympiad in Mamallapuram after they got to Chennai, has not been helping either in keeping sports channels open at a time of frosty diplomatic relations. Suffice it to say, a standoff is the norm in official India-Pakistan relations and cricket is in the centre of it now.