Former India opener Gautam Gambhir believes that in the wake of the terror attack in Pulwama last month where 44 CRPF soldiers lost their lives, India should be prepared to even ‘forfeit’ the World Cup final later this year against Pakistan if both countries qualify for the clash. Gambhir also called on the country to back the team if they decide to forfeit the June 16 World Cup group game against Pakistan in Manchester and fail to qualify for the semifinals as a result.
“This (playing Pakistan in World Cup) is what BCCI needs to decide and I have always maintained there can’t be conditional bans,” Gambhir said on the sidelines of an event in Delhi. “Either you don’t play them anywhere or open doors for them. What happened in Pulwama is absolutely not acceptable. I am sure it’s going to be difficult to boycott Pakistan in World Cup but they are not playing them in bilaterals. The best they can do is to stop playing in Asia Cup as well, that’s what I believe.”
The Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) who are in-charge of running BCCI, have written a letter to the International Cricket Council (ICC) asking their member nations to ‘isolate’ nations from where ‘terror emanates’. Their request made little headway at the last ICC meeting though and the ball is now squarely in the BCCI’s court and Gambhir believes if the board does decide to boycott the game, they should receive unreserved support for such a move.
“England had decided not to travel to Zimbabwe in 2003 World Cup and gave those two points away,” he said. “So, if BCCI decides that India should not play Pakistan they should be mentally ready and country should be too. It can’t be conditional ban, there could be repercussions as well. No media should blame India for not qualifying to the semifinals. The entire media and country should back the team as well.”
Forfeiting the league game is one thing but India potentially also run the risk of a defeat in World Cup semifinal or final, should they run into their neighbours again.
“Entire country needs to be on the same page before taking such a big decision, media and common man should not blame the team. Till that happens, it’s going to be a difficult decision for the BCCI,” Gambhir said.
Asked on his personal choice if he was an active player, he said, “There is nothing wrong in forfeiting the game and losing two points. The lives of 40-41 (44) soldiers who lost their lives are far more important. My point is if India decides to forfeit then the entire country should back the team even if India have to play Pakistan in the World Cup final, even if you have to let go of that final they should be ready for it.”
India’s stand against Pakistan has already cost them a couple of quota berths in the recently held Shooting World Cup and the World Wrestling body has also taken away the Asian junior wrestling meet from the country. Gambhir insists such outcomes shouldn’t dampen India’s will to stay firm on their stand.
“All of us need to decide if sports is more important or lives are more important,” the former Delhi skipper said. “If India have to face backlash of international sporting federations, I am all for it. But there should not be conditional bans, I have maintained this. Country is far more important than Bollywood, sports, art or culture if we have to face that backlash, they should be absolutely ready to do that.”
Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari also made a brief appearance at the Funggage.com event where Gambhir gave send-off to 15 young cricketers to Perth, leading to speculation that Gambhir might be looking to join politics ahead of the general elections.
“There are lot of rumours on that front but I haven’t thought about joining as yet because it is a completely different field. I just got Padma Shri two days back and haven’t really thought about it. I am still doing commentary for IPL-12. I have got a young family and I really want to spend time with them,” Gambhir said.