Sporting beyond the field
There have been plenty of controversies lately regarding the Indian cricket team wearing camouflaged Army caps to show solidarity with the martyrs of the recent Pulwama terror strike during the ODI against Australia in Ranchi. On the other hand, the 2018/19 Ranji Trophy champions Vidarbha playing the 2018/19 Irani Cup against Rest of India (ROI) in Nagpur also expressed solidarity with the slain soldiers. On Day 4 of the ongoing game, the Vidarbha cricketers wore black armbands to protest the Pulwama attack. The ROI batsmen Hanuma Vihari and Ajinkya Rahane also joined them. Thus, in perspective, the sports field has always been used to make bigger political statements. The 2009 attack on Sri Lankan cricketers when a bus carrying the team was fired upon by 12 gunmen near Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore was a one-off incident when the world learnt that sportsmen were not out of the terrorists' radar. Before the cricketing fraternity could realise the consequences, Pakistan plunged into the abyss of isolation. The black armband protest by Zimbabwean cricketers Andy Flower and Henry Olonga during the 2003 cricket World Cup to "mourn the death of democracy in Zimbabwe" drew attention from far and wide. Flower and Olonga were eventually forced to leave Zimbabwe. They later settled in the UK. This political unrest also led to unwillingness from foreign countries to play cricket in Zimbabwe. Australian Prime Minister John Howard expressed concerns for the Australian cricket team playing thereafter he led the charge to throw out Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth of Nations for their land seizure programme resulting in the death of many white Zimbabwean farmers. England forfeited their opening game in Zimbabwe at the 2003 World Cup as a sign of opposition to the regime. The Black Power salute photo, one of the most influential protest images of all time, was captured when US sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos stepped onto the world stage during the Summer Olympics in Mexico City in 1968 and raised their gloved fists in a human rights protest during their medal ceremony. The image became an iconic picture of the Black Power movement and an emotional reference for NFL players who kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality. On October 31, 1984, India abandoned the rest of the tour with Pakistan when they learnt that former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had been shot dead. There are numerous such examples throughout history when the sporting arena has been used as a platform for silent protest and drew the attention of the world. India, like many other countries, has had its share of political instances in sports as well. Such efforts to disassociate politics from sports are, therefore, outrageously pointless, owing to the kind of passion and enthusiasm it generates in this country, let alone the impact it creates as the most decent and favourable form of dissent.