The Pulwama terror attack which resulted in the death of 40 CRPF jawans has resulted in plenty of anger from the Indian public. Sporting personalities from across the spectrum have offered their condolences to the families of the CRPF jawans who were killed while some have made monetary contributions. There are some cricketing personalities who have called upon the Indian cricket team to boycott their ICC Cricket World Cup encounter against Pakistan in Manchester over the Pulwama attack. Both sides will clash on June 16 at Old Trafford, Manchester. Following the attack, Harbhajan Singh said, “There is no need for any relations with Pakistan, let alone cricket. Don't play the World Cup match with Pakistan on June 16 -- country comes first for all of us and we are all standing with our forces. I don't care about losing points as the Indian team is powerful enough to win the World Cup without playing Pakistan.”
However, the Board of Control for Cricket in India has said they are waiting for a government decision on whether India should play Pakistan in the World Cup. Sources in the Indian cricket board were clear on what they needed to do. “Situation will get clearer after some time, a little closer to the World Cup. ICC has nothing to do with it. If the government at that point in time feels we shouldn't play, it's obvious that we won't play.”
India and Pakistan will meet in the league stage but there can also be a distinct possibility that the two sides could face each other in the final. In that eventuality, the source said BCCI would approach the ICC in order to tackle the situation. “But the result of that would be that Pakistan will get the points of the match & if it is (the) final (between India and Pakistan), they will win the World Cup without even playing. We haven't yet approached ICC in this regard,” the source said.
The International Cricket Council is apparently monitoring the situation. An ICC meeting is scheduled to be held in February-end in Dubai and the major issue could be the cricketing relations between India and Pakistan. Dave Richardson, the outgoing ICC CEO spoke about the ramifications in case a team forfeits the game. “There is justifiable non-compliance and unjustifiable. We will have to deal with that under the playing regulations,” Richardson said in an interview to ESPNCricinfo.
Forfeiture in World Cup – A saga of pain
Richardson's comment on justifiable non-compliance and unjustifiable sums up the issue that teams who forfeit have to pay a heavy price irrespective of sentiments. In World Cup encounters, there has been instances when situations has arisen that has resulted in teams refusing to play each other due to security situations or other reasons. The 1996 World Cup was the first major instance and it involved Sri Lanka. Just before the tournament, a suicide bomb attack in Colombo resulted in at least 53 people been killed and 1,400 injured. Australia and West Indies chose not to play any of their scheduled games in Sri Lanka due to security concerns. Despite assurances from the ICC that it was safe to play, neither team relented. As a result, Sri Lanka was awarded the games and points with both matches going into result column as walkover without a ball bowled.
The issue cropped up again in 2003, this time there were issues with England and New Zealand. A car bomb attack in Mombassa in November 2002 had resulted in the death of 16 people and New Zealand wanted the game against Kenya to be relocated from Nairobi. The ICC refused and Kenya was awarded four points due to the forfeiture.
England's players were worried about security and social unrest in Zimbabwe heading into the tournament. However, according to a Guardian report, the news of death threats from one organisation made their decision final. The Sons and Daughters of Zimbabwe threat "Come to Harare and you will die" made England's decision to not play in Zimbabwe final and they lost four points. For both teams, the forfeiture proved costly as England was eliminated in the league stage while New Zealand crashed out in the super six stages.
In all the events, the ICC has sternly refused to justify the ‘fears’ of teams who have forfeited a game in the World Cup and it will be interesting how they treat India’s sentiments following the Pulwama attack. All eyes will be on Dubai in the coming weeks.