Sport and politics will mix again in the confrontation between Indo-Pak



Former India and Pakistan champions face each other in a World Cup match with geopolitical cargo months after being on the verge of war.

Tensions increase in any sporting competition with neighbors with nuclear weapons that have fought two of their three wars since independence over Kashmir, which both claim in their entirety but partly govern.

Bilateral cricket ties between them have been suspended since 2008 and relations deteriorated further in February this year after a suicide car bomb attack that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police in Kashmir controlled by the Indians.

Indian warplanes carried out air strikes within Pakistan, which retaliated with their own air mission before a full-fledged conflict was avoided.

Several former Indian players urged Virat Kohli's men to boycott the June 16 game in Old Trafford, Manchester, against their archrivals, while others saw more merit in playing and extending India's unbeaten record 6-0 against Pakistan in the World Cups.

"The matches between India and Pakistan were always announced as the final before the final, because people have attributed political factors to the game," cricket historian Boria Majumdar told Reuters.

Sports and politics always mix, he said, recalling the protest of the black bracelet at the 2003 World Cup of the Zimbabwe duo Andy Flower and Henry Olonga against the political regime of Robert Mugabe.

“The moment you are singing the national anthem in the sports field, you are invoking a strong sense of nationalism. And what else is it but a political statement, "says Majumdar.

Also in 2003, England refused to tour Harare for a World Cup match, citing security fears after Prime Minister Tony Blair called them to retire in protest against the Mugabe regime.

Kohli and his teammates wore army camouflage caps in a one-day match against Australia in March to show solidarity with the Indian paramilitary police who died in the Kashmir attack.

Subsequently, the Indian council made a failed attempt to isolate Pakistan in world cricket and raised security concerns for its players in England.

"The pressure will be immense on both teams," Majumdar said.

“The exaggeration is huge, the tickets have been sold out and the stations will project it as the final before the final.

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