‘Country comes first’: Harbhajan Singh says India should boycott Pakistan in 2019 WC

Reacting to the dastardly attack on the Indian security forces in Pulwama on the 14th February in which 44 personnel of the CRPF were killed, former Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh has stated that India should not play against Pakistan in the upcoming World Cup in England.

Harbhajan became the first Indian cricketer to voice his opinion on the India-Pakistan clash following the ghastly incident earlier this week. He feels that the Virat Kohli-led side are formidable enough to perform well in the World Cup tournament in England even if the team does not play the match against Pakistan in the round-robin fixture.

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. “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.”

Harbhajan added that India should not keep any relations or ties with Pakistan or play any sport with them. He wants the entire country to stand by the martyred soldiers.

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

But what will happen if Pakistan and India both proceed forward in the tournament and come across each other in the semi-final or the final of World Cup 2019? Harbhajan said that the ministers can take a call over it and they will be left with plenty of time to discuss it as the semis or the final will take place in early July.

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

Since the 2012-13 series at home, India have never faced Pakistan in a bilateral series. After 2013, the two cricketing rivals have met at Asia Cup tournaments five times, twice in Champions Trophy, twice in World T20 and once in World Cup. Their last meeting was in September last year where India and Pakistan faced each other twice in Asia Cup 2018 in UAE with Rohit Sharma-led side inflicting defeats in both the matches.

“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.