Of Cricket And Politics: Parvez Rasool’s Exclusion Raises Serious Questions

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By Rahul Muralidharan:

Politics, Discrimination and Cricket are some of the burning issues that are making the headlines these days. The curious case of Parvez Rasool creating a lot of debate online is a combination of all three. Omar Abdullah’s tweet “Did you really have to take him all the way to Zimbabwe to demoralize him? Wouldn’t it have been cheaper to just do it at home?” has really sparked a political controversy.

Parvez Rasool

Parvez Rasool’ s story is one of overcoming hardship to pursue his dream. Hailing from Bijbehara, a small town south of Kashmir in Anantnag District, near Sangam, famed for the Kashmir willow which provides a majority of Indians with their cricket bats, he overcame the complete lack of basic cricketing facilities in the state and became the first Kashmiri Muslim to play for the Indian Cricket Team. Ironically, Bijbehara is one of the pro Azadi regions where there is a deep resentment against India. It was a scene of horrific violence on October 23 1993. The Bijbehara Massacre, as it is known, took place on a Friday. Protests had sparked all over the valley. In Bijbehara, the protesting crowd was fired upon, in what by all accounts was an unprovoked assault on unarmed people. The vast majority of the valley support the Pakistan team. There is unanimity among people that they will support Rasool, but not India.

What has actually triggered this row? A recent newspaper story quoted sources claiming that the Indian government might try to defuse political tensions in Kashmir by ensuring Parvez is “fast-tracked into the national side”. This has created angst in the valley leading to a sentiment that let the sport remain sport and let it not be politicized. Just because a Kashmiri is playing for India it does not change the nature of the Kashmir issue. Not giving Parvez Rasool a single game in the five-match series in Zimbabwe has taken this issue to the next level. Though India created history by winning its first 5-0 ODI series on foreign soil, it is the non-inclusion of Rasool that is doing the rounds in media circles. Going into the final match, India was leading 4-0. Even 5-0 was never in doubt. Playing Rasool would not have impacted India in a big way. It doesn’t help matters that 14 out of the 15 member squad had been played in this series.

Playing Rasool would have given India a chance to experiment and test him before 2015. However, it certainly did not warrant politicians to jump the bandwagon to politicize this issue. Soon after Omar’s tweets , Shashi Tharoor tweeted that “Greatly disappointed that Parvez Rasool not playing today. Bizarre selection. Could easily have rested Jadeja & Raina for Rasool & Rahane”. Such actions merely reflect the sorry state of politics in our country. It is also doing Rasool a disservice by lending credence to the argument that Rasool’ s elevation was more of a symbolism. It does not give any credit to Rasool’ s achievements of playing 17 first-class matches, scoring 1,003 runs and taking 46 wickets and playing for the Pune Warriors in the last IPL.

Politics and sports should never be mixed. Ironically, in our country the two go hand in hand. It might have been unfair not to play Rasool , but it was a team management decision and there will be a lot of opportunities for him in the future. However, to politicize and portray this as discrimination against an already marginalized region does not do any favors especially to Rasool. Cricket selections are sometimes outrageous. But once a player becomes a part of the Indian team he sheds off his regional affiliations. It is only India that matters.

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