India should not play Pakistan in 2019 Cricket World Cup: Harbhajan Singh


Harbhajan Singh has said India can qualify for the semi-final at 2019 World Cup even without playing Pakistan (Reuters Photo)

Harbhajan Singh said India should not play Pakistan in their World Cup match in Manchester on June 16 after the terror attack in Pulwama killed 40 personnel of the CRPF. Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility for the ghastly act.

Harbhajan Singh said India are powerful enough to do well in the World Cup without having to play Pakistan. India will need to forfeit valuable points if they concede their fourth match of the tournament.

“India should not play Pakistan in the World Cup. India are powerful enough to win the World Cup without having to play Pakistan,” Harbhajan Singh told Aaj Tak.

He added: “This is a difficult time. The attack that has happened, it was unbelievable and it’s very wrong. Strict action will surely be taken by the government. When it comes to cricket, I don’t think we should have any relations with them otherwise they will keep treating us like this.

The Indian cricket team will be chasing their third World Cup title after victories in 1983 and 2011 and the Virat Kohli-led team starts favourites to win the title. The ICC rules do not permit India to withdraw or boycott their game against Pakistan without (a) forfeiting points and (b) inviting sanctions but Harbhajan insists that is the way forward.

“I don’t think we need to have any relations with Pakistan or play any cricket with them.

“I don’t think India should play the World Cup match against Pakistan. Country comes first and we are all standing behind our country. Cricket or hockey or sports, it should be kept aside because this is a huge thing and repeatedly our soldiers are killed. We should stand with our country. Cricket or hockey or any sport, we don’t need to play with them.”

What if India meet Pakistan in the semi-final or the final?

While India can still afford to forfeit their game against Pakistan in the league stage, which, of course, will mean loss of points, the bigger question is what happens if the two sides find themselves face to face in the knock-out stage?

Harbhajan said India can cross the bridge when it came to it in that case.

“We are too small to discuss what needs to be done – there are big people sitting in power who can take a call.

“What happens if we have to play Pakistan in the semi-final or final? There’s plenty of time for June-July. The people in power will need what to do. But nobody can harm India. What happened in Pulwama is tragic. We are safe today only because of our defence forces,” Harbhajan said.

India do not play bilateral cricket with Pakistan and Harbhajan said India should not keep any kind of ties with Pakistan.

“We should not keep any kind of ties with Pakistan: we are powerful enough to feed the world on our own. Cricket, sports is not as important. We stand with every member of the defence force. Their sacrifices should no go to waste. Before cricket, the main things should be sorted out. How that happens can be decided by the government. Till those problems are solved, India should not play cricket or any sport with them,” he said.

India have never faced Pakistan in a bilateral series since the 2012-13 home series. After 2013, India have played Pakistan at the Asia Cup five times, twice in Champions Trophy, twice in World T20 and once in World Cup. The last time India met Pakistan was in Asia Cup in September last year where India thrashed their arch rivals three times twice in the league stage and then in the all-important final.

India withdrew the MFN status for Pakistan the day after the attack and diplomatic efforts are on to isolate Pakistan internationally.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Cricket Board called the Indian official broadcasters of the Pakistan Super League, DSport’s decision to suspend coverage and the removal of Pakistan cricketers’ portraits from cricket clubs across India as “regrettable”.

Also, IMG Reliance on Sunday pulled out from broadcasting the Pakistan Super League, meaning the PSL will go off air unless the PCB brings in an alternate production service.

“Unfortunately, denying India cricket fans the right to follow HBL PSL by blocking all digital coverage as well as covering or removing portrait of former Pakistan cricket captain and Prime Minister Imran Khan and other legendary cricketers from one of the most historic cricket clubs and venues are highly regrettable actions,” the PCB said.

“The PCB intends to take up these incidents with the BCCI and the ICC at the upcoming ICC committee meeting in Dubai later this month.”