Bengaluru, June 8: A mail from the International Cricket Council (ICC) on Friday night (June 7) categorically stated that MS Dhoni cannot wear 'BaliDaan' insignia on his wicketkeeping gloves during the ICC World Cup 2019. But that communique since then has evoked reactions unparalleled across India, creating a vertical division between those who support Dhoni and those who don't.
It has become a matter of national pride and the ICC diktat an insult to the Indian Armed Forces. It may be a reflection of the highly polarised world that we are living in that a matter of dress code violation by a cricketer has been taken out of the more monolithic world of legal formalities and thrown into the highly volatile environment of national sentiments.
A plethora of Army officers, Central Ministers, political leaders, sports administrators and common men have lined themselves on either side of the fence, and hashtags like #Dhonikeepsgloves, #Dhonikesathdeshkesath etc have gone viral since.
Twitter and Facebook have become punch-trading places with people sharing pictures and videos of Pakistan team offering Namaz on a cricket ground and asking the ICC why did not they intervene then. Questions too have come that now the ICC has banned Dhoni from using the dagger emblem on his gloves, will they ban Sheldon Cotterel, the West Indian paceman, from celebrating wickets with an army salute?
We have taken the entire episode clearly out of the field. Dhoni's fascination for Armed Forces is well known and this is the second time the Indian team is getting embroiled in a similar controversy. The Indian team's move to wear camouflaged caps in a home ODI against Australia earlier this year as a mark of respect to the Pulwama victims too had created a feverish atmosphere.
As a general norm, we have viewed sports above all barriers -- political, regional, race, caste etc. But in the past too it has been used as a vehicle to express those emotions. Adolf Hitler had used the 1936 Berlin Olympics to showcase the Aryan supremacy until Jesse Owens thwarted the Furher, Tommy Smith and John Carlos made the Black Power Salute in the 1968 Mexico City Games, Munich massacre during the 1972 Games and the boycott of the summer Olympics by USA and the erstwhile USSR in 1980 (Moscow) and 1984 (Los Angeles) - a direct result of the Cold War -- politics of the time often had invaded sports too.
Of course, here the difference is that Dhoni is a Lt Colonel with the Parachute Regiment and has every right to wear the insignia. Remember, he received the Padma award from the President in full military attire. Dhoni, a pragmatic person with one of the most astute minds, should have realised that the ICC World Cup 2019 is not a battle field. Or may be, the attachment to that emblem might have been too strong for him to let it go, considering how deeply cares for the Armed Forces.
The easiest way out will be for Dhoni to mask the symbol, following the ICC protocol. His glove work will not lose any efficiency because of that and the rest of us need to treat it just as an issue within the sporting framework.