Pakistan cricketer Muhammad Rizwan has faced a backlash in India after he dedicated his team’s recent ICC Cricket World Cup win against Sri Lanka to the people of Gaza, who have faced relentless Israeli bombardment over the last few days.
Rizwan was adjudged the player of the match after he scored a century as Pakistan completed the tournament’s highest-ever successful run chase to beat Sri Lanka by six wickets in Hyderabad, India.
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“This was for our brothers and sisters in Gaza,” he wrote in a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, on Wednesday.
The 31-year-old wicketkeeper batter also wrote a message of condolence for the people affected by the earthquake in Afghanistan, but it was his show of support to the besieged Palestinians that has drawn a backlash from cricket fans in India.
Pakistan will take on archrivals India in their next game in Ahmedabad on Saturday, and some Indian fans have asked the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) to boycott the match and ban Rizwan from playing in the tournament.
Some Indian fans asked the International Cricket Council (ICC) to ban Rizwan for his “totally insane” post.
One Indian fan criticised an “unbothered” BCCI for giving Pakistani cricketers “a platform for Palestine agenda” that would “instigate Indian supporters of Hamas and Palestine”.
Meanwhile, Indian journalist Sudhir Chaudhary wrote on X that: “This #ICCCricketWorldCup23 is not just cricket but also a battleground of political and religious ideology.”
The ICC has previously ruled against players making political statements, although they are free to use their own media platforms away from the field of play.
In 2014, the global governing body banned England all-rounder Moeen Ali from wearing wristbands saying “Save Gaza” and “Free Palestine”.
And in 2019, India’s MS Dhoni was ordered by ICC to remove gloves with a controversial dagger logo – apparently a military symbol – in a World Cup game against Australia.
However, there seems little chance that the BCCI will take action over Rizwan’s statement.
Reports in the Indian media indicate that the BCCI is treating Saturday’s marquee clash as the main event of the Cricket World Cup and has planned a grand pre-match ceremony after deciding not to have an opening ceremony on the tournament’s opening day.
The special treatment reserved for Saturday’s match has not escaped some Indian fans’ criticism. They say the BCCI will not boycott the Pakistani team in the biggest match of the tournament.
Israel continues to pummel Gaza with air raids, killing more than 1,400 people after putting the enclave under “total siege” since last week.
This was in response to surprise attacks by the Palestinian group Hamas in Israel on Saturday, in which at least 1,300 people were killed.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies