Cricket for Americans: 19 Feb. 2019: And the guns fell silent

Via Wikipedia (emphasis mine):

On 14 February 2019, a convoy of 78 vehicles transporting more than 2,500 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel from Jammu to Srinagar was traveling on National Highway 44. The convoy had left Jammu around 3:30 IST and was carrying a large number of personnel due to the highway having been shut down for two days prior. The convoy was scheduled to reach the destination before sunset.

At Lethpora near Awantipora, around 15:15 IST, a bus carrying security personnel was rammed by a Mahindra Scorpio SUV carrying explosives. It caused a blast which killed 40 CRPF personnel of the 76th Battalion and injured many others. …

Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for the attack. They also released a video of the assailant Adil Ahmad Dar (alias Adil Ahmad Gaadi Takranewala or Waqas Commando), a 22-year old from Kakapora who had joined the group a year ago. Dar’s family had last seen him in March 2018, when he left his house on a bicycle one day and never returned. Pakistan denied any involvement and Jaish-e-Mohammed leader, Masood Azhar, roams free in that country.

It is the deadliest terror attack on India’s state security personnel in Kashmir since 1989.

On June 16, India will play Pakistan in a World Cup group stage at Old Trafford, Manchester, England.

It won’t be the first time the two old enemies have played each other during heightened military action in the Kashmir region, but this is the marquee match up of the World Cup group stage. The match received double the amount of ticket lottery entries than even the final did. And so there are calls for India to boycott the match, or even the entire tournament, in protest of what many say is Pakistan’s unwillingness to curtail terrorists in their country, as the boycott would carry even more clout, considering all the eyes on this match.

I don’t think it will happen, I really don’t, there is simply too much money on the line for geo-politics to get in the way, especially since the match is happening on neutral territory. My only hope is that the safety of the fans and the players is kept in mind, and not sacrificed in pursuit of the almighty dollar. I also think calls to boycott matches would disappear if, quite simply, India played Pakistan more often. They have not done so outside of an international tournament in years, which puts undo pressure not just to hold the matches, but for the matches to be entertaining.

My opinions aside, this is just another example of the cricket is a very different beast. In no other sport are geo-political conflicts played out like they are in cricket. The Kashmir region is one of the more contested military hotspots on earth, and the two combatants regularly meet not on the battlefield, but on the cricket ground, where they show their countries and the whole world that peace is possible.

One of the more famous stories from World War One is the Christmas Eve truce, where the guns fell silent for one night in a series of unofficial truces, all up and down the western front. Famously, a football match broke out during one of the truces. It’s apples to oranges, of course, but in a way these kinds of truces still happen, every time India plays Pakistan out on the cricket field. For a few hours everyone forgets they have nuclear weapons pointed at each other, and everyone just enjoys the match. It’s a reminder that we are all human, enemies and friends alike. And so in that respect I do hope the match goes on, even if the reasons it will probably happen — profit — aren’t the most idealistic. We could all use a chance to forget the darkness the world has to offer, and instead focus on its joy.

They say that when the funs fell silent on the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, it was like the voice of God. The guns can fall silent again on June 16, if even for a few hours. We just have to let them.

Until tomorrow.

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