Sport is a balm that has the potential to soothe, to rise above all emotions and evoke the spirit in a way no other human pursuit does. It can make one cry. It can also leave us cleansed of all sorrow and fear. Above all, it has that innate ability to unite, even in the most hostile of situations irrespective of colour, creed, caste and religion. Unfortunately, this very characteristic of sport is being shaken right now.
There have been cases of racism across the globe; the latest one was involving India players when they toured Australia. Sexist remarks have cost the Tokyo Olympics 2020 organising chief his post. And now, religion is being dragged into its hallowed turf. Former India opener and stalwart of domestic cricket Wasim Jaffer was accused of creating a communal atmosphere as Uttarakhand team coach by its secretary and team manager reportedly a day after he resigned citing interference in selection.
Jaffer, an amiable man with impeccable manners on and off the field, denied allegations such as trying to promote players of a certain faith, changing a Hanuman chant of the team and calling Maulvis breaching the bio-bubble protocol. Other than a handful of former cricketers like Anil Kumble and Manoj Tiwary tweeting in support of Jaffer, others preferred to remain silent. This includes the Indian cricket board. Tweeting sure is a personal choice, but bringing religion into sport is something that is vile and can be invasive if not addressed right now.
Incidentally, days before the incident, there were identical tweets posted by some prominent sportspersons echoing the government’s position after global activists like Rihanna and Greta Thunberg tweeted their support for the ongoing farmers’ agitation.
Going forward, the India cricket board ought to quickly set up a probe panel to get to the bottom of the Jaffer issue instead of doing an ostrich, hoping the controversy will disappear with time. Cricket has always transcended religion and remained universal. Performance has never been defined by religion. Our faith, after all, should always be in the beauty of the game and not religion.