Boycott calls add to India-Pakistan cricket rivalry before blockbuster clash

Boycott calls add to India-Pakistan cricket rivalry before blockbuster clash

Indian batsman Virat Kohli played a stroke as wicketkeeper Sarfaraz Ahmed, Babar Azam look on. Photo: AFP

Cricket tensions between India and Pakistan surged Wednesday as calls for the Men in Blue to boycott their clash against Pakistan gained steam in India. 

Violence in occupied Kashmir, where the Indian force has committed atrocities for several decades now, have given rise to Indians urging their team to boycott the clash against Pakistan. 

However, the Indian board has insisted the national team cannot withdraw from the game.

Decades of bitter rivalry between the neighbours often clouds their cricket encounters. India has largely refused to play bilateral games against Pakistan since 2008, after deadly attacks in Mumbai, which India blamed on Pakistan without providing any solid proof.

Now they only play each other in international events. The last meeting was at the 50-over World Cup two years ago but even that was at the centre of boycott calls.

The hashtag #BlacklistPakistan” was trending on Twitter in India Wednesday.

Rajeev Shukla, the Board of Control for Cricket in India vice president, said earlier that the country had a contractual obligation to take part.

“We strongly condemn the killings. However, under the International Cricket Council’s commitments, you can’t refuse to play any one (game),” Shukla told Indian media.

A cabinet minister, Giriraj Singh, had also urged the government to consider intervening to stop the match.

“I think if relations are not good, then this should be reconsidered,” Singh said when questioned about the match. Other politicians have also joined the calls.

However, India’s badminton great Prakash Padukone said, “sports and politics should not be mixed and according to me it (the India-Pakistan match) should go on”.

India was also urged to boycott the 2019 World Cup game against Pakistan because of a suicide bomb attack in occupied Kashmir in February of that year in which more than 40 troops were killed.

Pakistan denied any role in the assault but the two countries came to the brink of war. India won the game which went ahead in June 2019.

India and Pakistan last played a bilateral series in 2013 during a brief thaw in their rivalry.

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