Before the start of the first Twenty20 International between India and Australia in Vizag, the players from both teams, including the support staff walked out and observed a two-minute silence to pay their tribute to the 40 CRPF jawans who were killed in the Pulwama terror attack on February 14. The Indian cricket team players also wore black armbands. Television crews spotted both teams observing the silence diligently but the Vizag crowd did not exactly reciprocate the sentiment. During the telecast of the silence, there were many sections of the crowd who were hooting and many were shouting ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’. There were reports that some sections of the crowd who were waving at the camera and flashing mobile phones. Apparently, Indian cricket team skipper Virat Kohli had to gesture to the crowd to remain silent.
The behaviour of the crowd drew the ire of many social media users. There were some media personalities who tried to deflect the issue by stating as to why the Australian players did not wear black armbands to pay their tribute to the Pulwama terror attack. The black armband is traditionally worn by the teams when they pay their respect to past cricketers who died. FIFA, the world football governing body rules state display of any political or religious symbol is strictly prohibited but some changes were made after Football Associations of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland displayed poppies on the black arm bands in 2016 to mark Armistice Day.
The Pulwama terror attack has angered India and in particular the sporting individuals in the country. The target in the aftermath of the attack is the India vs Pakistan ICC Cricket World Cup encounter which will be played in Manchester on June 16.
Sachin Tendulkar had earlier tweeted out a statement which said: “India has always come up trumps against Pakistan in the World Cup. Time to beat them once again. Would personally hate to give them two points and help them in the tournament. Having said that, for me India always comes first. Whatever my country decides, I will back that decision with all my heart.”
Ganguly, who has advocated a strong position against Pakistan and has called for cutting off all sporting ties with the country in the wake of the terror attack, has responded to Tendulkar’s comment stating, “He wants two points against Pakistan, I want the World Cup. Whichever way you look at it,” Ganguly.
Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar want Indo-Pak clash to happen. On the other hand, Harbhajan Singh, Ganguly, and Mohammad Azharuddin are against the idea of the game. Gavaskar, in an interaction with India Today TV channel, said the aim was to beat Pakistan in the field and not give them two points. “India decide not to play Pakistan in the World Cup, who wins? Pakistan will get two points. We have beaten them every time in World Cups. We can play them and beat them and make sure they don't reach the semi-finals. Not playing bilateral series vs Pakistan hurts them. I know India are strong enough to qualify by not playing Pakistan. Not playing bilaterally hurts them. But it's a World Cup, it's two points...," Gavaskar told the channel.
Virat Kohli, before the pre-match press conference against Australia in the T20I in Vizag, said the team will adhere to the decision the Board of Control for Cricket in India and the Government takes. "Our sincere condolences to the families of CRPF soldiers who lost their lives in Pulwama Attack. We stand by what the nation wants to do and what the BCCI decides to do. We will go by what the govt and the Board decides, we will respect that," Kohli stated.