India vs Australia: After Pulwama, why cricket's 'camouflage cap' seems more like official merchandise and less a homage to martyrs

No, the Indian team did not 'politicise' it. But yes, they did 'commercialise' it.

 |  3-minute read |   13-03-2019
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On the third one-day cricket international against Australia, in Ranchi, the Indian cricket team was seen in something other than their usual blue. As a gesture of tribute to the country’s armed forces, following the gruesome Pulwama terror attacks that killed 40 CRPF jawans, team India was wearing camouflage caps.

As per a report in IndiaToday.in, Mahendra Singh Dhoni had distributed the caps among his team members himself before Friday's toss.

What followed was uncalled-for, although, not entirely surprising.

Pakistan — accusing the Indian side of ‘politicising’ the sport — urged the International Cricket Council (ICC) to take action. ICC, in turn, responded saying that they had, in fact, granted the Indian side permission to sport those caps.

Matters should have ended there.

Except, it can’t.

First of all, this wouldn’t have been the first time a sporting team stood in solidarity with a cause. Black bands on the arm and ribbons on the chest are hardly ignored or missed by ardent sports fans. Back in 2003, for instance, Henry Olonga and Andy Flower’s ‘black armband protest’ to ‘mourn the death of democracy in Zimbabwe’ made history — forcing the two men to leave the country and settle down in the United Kingdom.

At the time, the ICC had identified the actions of Olonga and Flower as ‘political’ although the cricketers weren’t charged. This time, the ICC doesn’t see a ‘political’ stand in the argument.

Could this be ICC’s damage control move to hand the Indian side a metaphorical lollipop because they didn’t accept their demands of boycotting Pakistan last month? BCCI wanted ICC to “sever ties with countries from which terrorism emanates” — but ICC hardened up and said, “Nope, not happening.”

Of course, boycotting Pakistan would mean losing out on money, whereas allowing a camouflage cap on the field, even though it has never been done in the ‘gentleman’s game’ before, involved no loss of money. A pat on the back for this brilliant nationalistic move on Twitter was just the cherry on the cake.

Speaking of money, is it not noteworthy that a mega sporting goods brand had the merchandise ready in a jiffy, to suit the mood of the nation?

These caps, after all, are not a piece of cloth tied on the head as a bandana. These are not black bands or pink ribbons. These are branded caps, with the team India logo, purportedly designed by the Indian jersey-makers.

So let me get this straight — a stand needed to be taken, but instead of taking it, first, an order was placed for the stand-taking merchandise to reach the locker-room?

What social media, I believe, fails to see is that a global sporting apparel brand is turning a horrible terrorist attack into something akin to a Coachella concert. This is not like marking the release of the final season of Game Of Thrones, where T-shirts with quotes like “I drink and I know things” should sell like hot cakes.

This is a terrorist attack.

Let’s not put a cap on nationalism. A commercial one, at that.

Also read: No play with Pakistan: We Indians must choose between national pride and our martyrs' sacrifice versus a game of cricket

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