The International Cricket Council (ICC) has asked an Indian cricketer to remove an army insignia from his wicketkeeping gloves, sparking a nationalistic furore in the South Asian country.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, one of the game’s biggest stars, is an honorary lieutenant colonel in the Indian territorial army. On Wednesday, the 37-year-old player sported the army’s dagger insignia on his gloves during India‘s opening match against South Africa in the World Cup, being hosted by England and Wales.
The ICC said its clothing and equipment rules allow only manufacturers’ logos on gloves, and that Dhoni or the Indian team had not sought any permission to sport the badge.
The ruling prompted passionate responses from India’s ruling party as well as opposition politicians, Bollywood stars and common citizens. On Friday, #DhoniKeepTheGlove was the most trending hashtag on Twitter in India.
The controversy forced New Delhi to weigh in, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s government urging the country’s cricket board, the BCCI, to sort out the matter.
“The government does not interfere in matters of sports bodies, they are autonomous,” Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju posted on Twitter.
“But when the issue is related to the country’s sentiments, then the interest of the nation has to be kept in mind. I urge the BCCI to take appropriate steps on the issue.”
The BCCI said it has already written to the world governing body for cricket, seeking permission for Dhoni to sport the insignia.
Bollywood actors Riteish Deshmukh and Rahul Dev backed Dhoni, with Deshmukh saying the army insignia was “a symbol of pride”, and Dev telling the ICC to focus on the “standard of umpiring” over Dhoni’s gloves.
Indian Army has always been independent irrespective of the political party in power. We are proud of them. Lt. Col. @msdhoni has worn the Army insignia as a symbol of pride. Doesn’t hurt anyone’s sentiments, In fact it honours the brave #DhoniKeepTheGlove #WorldCup2019
— Riteish Deshmukh (@Riteishd) June 7, 2019
Dear all at @ICC ,when you are done with which symbol a legendary cricketer (read MS Dhoni) wears on his glove, pls do take time to check out the standard of umpiring.
The World Cup?Really now!
BTW The ‘Balidaan Badge’ doesn’t disrespect anyone.#DhoniKeepTheGlove#AUSvWI #CWC19 pic.twitter.com/IDTK6ELrC5
— Rahul Dev Official (@RahulDevRising) June 6, 2019
Many others praised Dhoni and expressed pride in the army, while some went as far as to call on the Indian team to pull out of the tournament if the cricketer was forced to remove his gloves.
— DHONIsm™ ❤️ (@DHONIism) June 7, 2019
However, some criticised Dhoni, with author Prerna Bakshi calling the move “macho exhibitionism” and “over the top jingo nationalism”.
In an editorial, news website The Print said Dhoni had “erred by wearing” the military logo on his gloves. “Champion sportsmen must confine their battles and nationalism to their sporting skills,” it added.
What’s with this macho exhibitionism? Whether it’s MS Dhoni or Virat Kohli, this forced fake over the top jingo nationalism is why Cricket sucks (even more) now. Do you ever remember guys like Rahul Dravid doing stuff like this? Was he any less of a nationalist for not doing it?
— Prerna Bakshi (@bprerna) June 7, 2019
ThePrint’s #50-WordEdit on the Dhoni-Special Forces insignia issue pic.twitter.com/ZRfxTb9kdo
— Shekhar Gupta (@ShekharGupta) June 7, 2019
Meanwhile, Pakistan‘s federal Science and Technology Minister Chaudhary Fawad Hussain slammed what he called an “idiotic debate in Indian media”, saying Dhoni was in England to play cricket, not for any war.
Surprised on Indians reaction on my tweet on Dhoni confusing Cricket match with MahaBharta 🙂 itna Ghussa! bhai let cricket remain Gentlemen game dont make it Indian politics turf
— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) June 7, 2019
This is not the first time Indian cricketers have stirred controversy by sporting military gear.
In March, Dhoni and his team members wore army camouflage-style caps during a one-day match against Australia to show their solidarity with Indian paramilitary soldiers killed in a suicide attack by a Pakistan-based armed group.
The Indian team, led by Virat Kohli, also donated their earning from that match to the families of the defence personnel who died on duty.
Al Jazeera and news agencies