Controversies rear their heads out of nowhere. When the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup began, nobody would have imagined that Mahendra Singh Dhoni would trend on social media because of his wicket keeping gloves with an insignia on it that he had donned during the India-South Africa match.
The dagger visual on the back of Dhoni’s green gloves, which caused the controversy, resembled the Balidaan badge, an insignia of the special forces that form a part of the Parachute Regiment. After it was caught on camera, the ICC requested the BCCI to ensure that Dhoni removed it. The BCCI requested the ICC to reconsider the decision, which the global governing body rejected.
Many Indian cricket fans have expressed their annoyance with the ICC’’s decision, an emotional response that cannot explain why Dhoni must not follow the ICC rulebook. This is what the ICCs clothing and equipment regulation specifically states:
“Players and team officials shall not be permitted to wear, display or otherwise convey messages through arm bands or other items affixed to clothing or equipment (“Personal Messages”) unless approved in advance by both the player or team official’s Board and the ICC Cricket Operations Department. Approval shall not be granted for messages which relate to political, religious or racial activities or causes. The ICC shall have the final say in determining whether any such message is approved. For the avoidance of doubt, where a message is approved by the player or team official’s Board but subsequently disapproved by the ICC’s Cricket Operations Department, the player or team official shall not be permitted to wear, display or otherwise convey such message in International Matches.”
The website ESPNcricinfo.com “understands the ICC sent it its response on Friday afternoon (UK time) explaining that Dhoni had breached two clauses of the clothing and equipment regulations: one relating to the display of "personal messages" and the other concerning the logo on his gloves.” One must also remember that the ICC’s Cricket Operations department is the deciding authority on the issue. Hence, Dhoni has to follow instructions when he takes the field on Sunday.
When the controversy was at its peak, numerous voices came out in support of Dhoni. Sports minister Kiren Rijiju went to the extent of telling the news agency ANI:
"The government doesn't intervene in affairs of sports bodies. But when the issue is related to the country's sentiments, then the interest of the nation has to be kept in mind.” Rijiju’s statement would have startled those who believe that every Indian is mainly interested in watching India triumph in the world cup.
This is not the first time the ICC has intervened in a similar issue. David Boon, the ICC match referee, had banned Moeen Ali from wearing ‘Save Gaza’ and ‘Free Palestine’ wristbands in the third Test against India in Southampton in 2014 after England had cleared Ali. It can be argued that Ali was making a political statement, unlike Dhoni. Unintentionally but clearly, however, the Indian keeper-batsman had violated the rules, which made the governing body act and also reject a BCCI request thereafter.
While the insignia on his gloves doesn’t have political, religious or racist undertones, the ICC’s firmness on the matter is understandable. If one player is allowed to depict a personal message without proper permission, others might indulge in the same. The ICC’s task is to maintain discipline and ensure that rules are followed – even it becomes a little unpopular or annoys the richest cricket board.
As the controversy heads towards its demise, every cricket lover will hope that it wouldn’t have a significant impact on Dhoni’s mind. The in-form Dhoni’s depth of experience and ability to contribute with the bat, behind the stumps and in his unofficial role of a strategist make him a precious player in India's scheme of things. The present edition of the world cup is probably the last time he is representing India in the tournament, and every Team India follower expects him to sign off with a flourish.
Skipper Virat Kohli needs the services of Dhoni at his best. Nothing apart from cricket must make him brood, which includes the insignia on his wicket-keeping gloves.