Vastavam web: The old adage that sports and politics do not mix will ring hollow again when former champions India and Pakistan clash in a geopolitically charged World Cup match months after being on the verge of war. Tensions run high in any sporting contest featuring the nuclear-armed neighbours who have fought two of their three wars since independence over Kashmir, which both claim in full but rule in part. Bilateral cricketing ties between them have remained suspended since 2008 and relations further soured in February this year after a suicide car bombing that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police in Indian-controlled Kashmir.
Several former India players urged Virat Kohli’s men to boycott the June 16 match in Old Trafford, Manchester, against their arch-rivals while others saw more merit in playing and extending India’s 6-0 unbeaten record against Pakistan in World Cups.
“India-Pakistan matches have always been billed as the final before the final, because people have attached political factors to the game,” cricket historian Boria Majumdar told Reuters. Sports and politics always mingle, he said, recalling the black armband protest at the 2003 World Cup by Zimbabwe duo Andy Flower and Henry Olonga against Robert Mugabe’s political regime.