Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Sheikh Rasheed.

The shameful comment by Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Sheikh Rasheed that his country’s victory in the ongoing world cup against India was the triumph of Islam, has needlessly vitiated the sporting atmosphere. The minister further added that the outcome demonstrated the supremacy of Islam over other religions. Rasheed is an experienced politician and should know that Sports and Religion do not go hand in hand. The game in Dubai was played by both the teams in a competitive but friendly atmosphere. The players respect each other and after the match, Indian skipper Virat Kohli congratulated both the openers by hugging them.

The Pakistani players are in awe of many Indian legends such as Kohli and Mahender Singh Dhoni and some of them got their photos clicked with their cricketing heroes. Even in the past, despite a fierce rivalry, the players have always been most dignified on and off the field. Therefore, it was in an extremely poor taste that Sheikh Rasheed should have said what he did. By his flawed logic, the inability of sportspersons from his country to win medals in the Olympics was the defeat of Islam. How ridiculous. The India-Pakistan confrontation on the field has always been a high voltage event where emotions run high and there is tremendous pressure on players to perform. But it does not mean that they should behave in an unbecoming manner.

Pakistan has many gifted sportsmen and in the World Cup, it was Cricket that won and not any religion. In fact, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) should ask the ICC to seek an explanation from the Pakistan Cricket Board to clarify if it supported the Interior Minister’s irresponsible comments. Any country which brings in religion, colour, caste or any such thing in the sphere of sports needs to be dealt with accordingly. For many years, the South African team which had such iconic players such as Barry Richards, Mike Procter, the Pollock brothers amongst others, could not compete with many Test playing sides because of the apartheid issue.

Subsequently the matter was resolved and the South African team ended its deplorable policy. The South Africans are one of the most competitive teams in world cricket today. Pakistan has also suffered as a test playing team because most countries do not wish to travel to that country in view of the alarming law and order situation. Lately, New Zealand cancelled its tour. The Indian team is also under a lot of pressure not to play with Pakistan and the bilateral exchanges have not been held for a long time. Many gifted Pakistani players have not been able to participate in the IPL because they have been barred due to their country’s support of terrorism from across the border. Imran Khan has been the most celebrated Captain of his country and is currently the Prime Minister. He should pull up his minister for infringing the spirit of the game.

Pakistani commentators should also act objectively and comments such as defeat of infidels are unnecessary. Such people should be banned from commenting or moderating at the award ceremonies. The Dubai match showed Pakistan’s complete domination over India on that particular day but it does not mean that the Indian team would not strike back and win the game in future. Cricket is a gentleman’s game. Not for the likes of Sheikh Rasheed to spoil by his reckless and anachronistic observations.