An unsporting event
India registered a near-perfect World Cup campaign in the preliminary stage, defeating Sri Lanka comfortably to register top place which was affirmed after Australia lost to South Africa in the last game of the league stage. However, amidst this sweet victory, there was a sour taste that invaded the sporting event. Multiple intrusions by a small aircraft that flew over Headingley Stadium, Leeds during the match between India and Sri Lanka saw politically influenced messages casting a lull over the crowd. The first message floated by the aircraft read "Justice for Kashmir" as the third over of the match was in procession. With many considering it a one-off incident, the aircraft reappeared as the match got tense in the 17th over. This time the aircraft carried the message "India stop genocide, free Kashmir". With an innings passed and India now batting to reach a modest total of 264 set up by Sri Lanka, the aircraft once again circled the stadium floating the message "Help end mob-lynching in India". With three politically influenced messages floating over the stadium as India marched to victory, the crowd gasped to the surprise intrusion. Well, it was not that surprising considering how previously in the match between Pakistan and Afghanistan, a similar aircraft had hovered over Headingley displaying the message "Justice for Balochistan" and spurring controversy. Though ICC had then assured prevention of any such activity in collaboration with the local police. It had declared that it does not condone any sort of political messages at the ICC World Cup and get to the bottom of the incident whilst ensuring that a repeat of the same remains off charts. But Saturday's match is where ICC failed to prevent such a mishap. Broadcasters for the World Cup live-streamed the aircraft carrying political messages to every corner of the globe as everyone's attention was directed to India and its misery with mob-lynching and Kashmir. Perpetrators chose the right stage to display their thoughts since the entire world saw but sadly disrespected the sporting world in a bid to express their scorn. ICC was quick to issue a statement regarding the incident asserting their utter disappointment at the incident. They reiterated how they do not condone any sort of political message at the sporting event and expressed disappointment at how assurance provided to them by the local police had failed. ICC must enquire the happenings and work with the police to avoid any kind of repeat considering three crucial games are yet to be played. The local police must expedite its investigation to narrow down perpetrators and subject them to punitive measures for this is no simple altercation but abject accusation on the face of a country visiting Great Britain to play Cricket which is supposed to be bereft of any political influence. For that matter, even Pakistan was victimised in a similar manner and irrespective of the political situation prevailing in Pakistan, the slogan hovering in the sky was not justified, and never will be. Sloganeering has always been the fundamental way of protesting but intruding a global sporting event is taking it to another level. The slogans raised against India during the match on Saturday only display the lack of respect these protestors have for sporting processions. Time and again, sports has been viewed as different from politics. If sports went by political terms, India would have never played against Pakistan; there were rumours prior to World Cup that India may bid to ICC to boycott the match but sporting spirit was given precedence and no such thing happened.
The failure of precautionary measures only highlights the sense of priority given towards the prevention of such a thing. What the slogans read and its validation is another story which comes second to its very existence in the event. If internal conflict or issues specific to a nation were displayed in full vigour at sporting events, we would have many more aircraft carrying eye-opening slogans and directing global attention towards alleged atrocities. But same is not the case since sporting events are not staged for global dispute settlement and neither are they a platform for mere discussion. While perpetrators got the global eye, they did not do justice to the sporting event hosted by Great Britain and directed great disrespect towards the Indian community and the nation itself. Such displays are condemnable since they blemish the fabric of sports stitched to pronounce sportsmanship and competitiveness amongst nations and produce an environment deprived of political messages and proceedings.