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01 October 2023

India boycott threat looms over cricket's global showpiece

Photo: AFP


Border tensions between India and Pakistan are casting a cloud over this year's cricket World Cup with the threat of a boycott hanging over their highly-anticipated clash in England.

There have been calls for India to forfeit their June 16 match against Pakistan after a suicide bomb attack in Indian-administered Kashmir claimed by a militant group based in Pakistan in which 40 Indian troops died.

Tit-for-tat air strikes and an aerial dogfight followed, igniting fears of an all-out conflict, but the crisis appeared to ease when Pakistan returned an Indian pilot who was shot down and captured.

But doubts remain over the fate of the group stage match in Manchester.

The ball rests firmly with India's politicians, who are not likely to make any decision until nearer the match, after cricketers and sports officials said they will abide by any government call for a boycott.

Vinod Rai, a senior official of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), told reporters after the Kashmir attack that they had written to the International Cricket Council (ICC) to demand tough security at the World Cup, which begins in England and Wales on May 30.

Rai confirmed a boycott decision would only be made at a later date -- and after consulting the government.

India captain Virat Kohli said the players would respect any instruction from the government or board.

"Our stand is simple: we stick by what the nation wants to do and what the BCCI decides to do," Kohli told reporters.

"That is basically our opinion. Whatever the government and the board decide, we will go by that and we will respect that."