A game of geopolitics . . .
India and Pakistan will face each other in the Cricket World Cup in England on Sunday in what promises to be a classic showdown, both for cricket fans and for observers of geopolitics. While tensions over ‘soft diplomacy’ issues are nothing new for these two nuclear powers, this match has become highly politicized on account of the actions of one of India’s star players, Mahendra Singh Dhoni. In India’s opening World Cup match against Australia, Dhoni sported the insignia of an Indian Army parachute regiment on his gloves in clear contravention of the International Cricket Council’s restrictions on non-cricket logos during the tournament. Dhoni is an honorary lieutenant colonel with the regiment.
Stoking international tensions . . .
Dhoni’s actions have inflamed nationalist sentiments in both countries. Analysts saw the insignia on Dhoni’s gloves as an act of support for the Indian army’s military efforts in Kashmir against the backdrop of the nationalist BJP’s recent election victory in India. India’s Minister of Sport has criticized the ICC for banning Dhoni from wearing the army insignia, claiming his choice is an expression of national pride as opposed to a “personal message” to Pakistan.
Looking towards Sunday’s showdown . . .
Over a billion people in India, Pakistan, and around the world (including in Canada) will be watching with anticipation on Sunday, with many looking out for Dhoni’s gloves and other acts of political protest by both teams. Odds makers are heavily favouring India to win the match. Let’s hope this political imbroglio is quickly forgotten in favour of a tight on-field contest with batting and bowling doing the talking.