Former India cricketer Gautam Gambhir believes India should be ready to forfeit the final in the upcoming World Cup if it is against Pakistan.
Since the Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed effected the Pulwama attack in which more than 40 Indian soldiers lost their lives, there have been talks around the cricketing circles that India should boycott Pakistan on the cricket pitch. Former cricketers from India have been divided on the issue of playing Pakistan in international cricket. While Sachin Tendulkar said that he would hate to give those two points to Pakistan in the tournament, Gambhir has been maintaining his boycott Pakistan stand.
On Tuesday, on the sidelines of an event, he was quoted as saying on CricketNext, "This (playing Pakistan in World Cup) is what BCCI needs to decide and I have always maintained there can’t be conditional bans.
"Either you don’t play them anywhere or open doors for them. What happened in Pulwama is absolutely not acceptable. I am sure it’s going to be difficult to boycott Pakistan in the World Cup but they are not playing them in bilaterals. The best they can do is to stop playing in the Asia Cup as well, that’s what I believe.”
Gambhir said that no cricketing contest is as important as the lives of the CRPF soldiers and added that if needed, India should forfeit even the final if Pakistan makes the cut.
He said, "There is nothing wrong in forfeiting the game and losing two points. The lives of 40-41 (44) soldiers who lost their lives are far more important. My point is if India decides to forfeit then the entire country should back the team even if India have to play Pakistan in the World Cup final, even if you have to let go of that final they should be ready for it."
Gambhir cited England's forfeiture of their 2003 World Cup round-robin fixture against Zimbabwe in protest of the Robert Mugabe regime.
"England decided in 2003 and they wouldn't go to Zimbabwe, they forfeited. If BCCI decides not to play against Pakistan, everyone should be mentally ready to give those two points," he said.
"There could be repercussions and we may not qualify for the semi-finals. No media should blame the Indian team if they plan to boycott playing Pakistan," he said.
India drew the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) ire after Pakistani shooters were denied visas for the Delhi World Cup owing to the Pulwama attack. The IOC suspended all discussion on hosting of major events in India and told other international federations to halt interactions with the country.
The IOC demanded that the Indian Olympic Association must provide government assurance that none of the participating countries would be denied visa if India host any event. Recently, the global wrestling body withdrew the Asian junior championship from India owing to the unresolved matter.
Asked if India's stand could lead to a sporting boycott of the nation in the near future, Gambhir said that he wouldn't mind that.
"All of us need to decide if sport is more important or lives of our soldiers? I am all for facing a backlash if the international sporting federations decide to ostracise us. The sentiment of the country is far more important than sports, Bollywood, art or culture.
"If we get boycotted at sports events, we should be ready for it," the 37-year-old said.
Amid speculation that he would be getting a BJP ticket to fight the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, Gambhir said he is still undecided on taking the political plunge.
"All my life I have only played cricket and my family needs to be convinced. I have heard from people that full-time politics can change people.
"But I have two little daughters. I need to spend time with them. I have also heard rumours but right now, I will be doing commentary for Star Sports during IPL."
With inputs from PTI