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M.S. Dhoni gloves row: Should sportspersons be allowed to flaunt military symbols on field?

The BCCI has asked the ICC to approve Indian wicketkeeper MS Dhoni’s cricketing gloves with the Army’s ‘Balidaan’ insignia inscribed on them.

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The BCCI has asked the ICC to approve Indian wicketkeeper M.S. Dhoni’s cricketing gloves with the Army’s ‘Balidaan’ insignia inscribed on them for the remaining matches in the ongoing World Cup tournament. While fans had praised Dhoni, an honorary Lt Col in the Parachute Regiment, for sporting the badge during the match against South Africa, the ICC had asked it to be removed.

ThePrint asks: M.S. Dhoni gloves row: Should sportspersons be allowed to flaunt military symbols on field?

Just like I can’t wear my medals on civilian attire and walk around the city, neither can Dhoni

S.Y. Savur
Air Marshal (retd)

A cricket match is not a military occasion and honorary rank doesn’t give Dhoni the right to display insignia

If Dhoni feels so strongly about the Army, he should do some genuine work for their betterment

Military insignia is and always has been sacrosanct. Even military personnel are not allowed to wear it on any casual attire of theirs; such symbols can only be worn on formal or ceremonial occasions.

A cricket game is not a formal military occasion. Even if Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been conferred an honorary rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Parachute Regiment, that doesn’t give him a right to display the military insignia on his wicket-keeping gloves. Just like I can’t wear my medals and pilot wings on my civilian attire and walk around the city, neither can Dhoni.

What is he trying to prove by wearing it? Flaunting such symbols proves nothing about what one may feel about the territorial army. If one really feels this strongly, they should invest effort and time in doing some work that would genuinely ensure their betterment. This could include advocating for the rights of the territorial army, or arguing with the ministry of defence for the needs of the territorial army.

I don’t know if M.S. Dhoni has done all of this. If he has, well and good. But nothing justifies the unwarranted symbolism of this kind. Certain things are sacred – and should be kept that way.

Some athletes were Army men unlike ‘honorary’ Dhoni but they never played with badges to prove patriotism

Norris Pritam
Sports columnist and senior freelance journalist

Thinking about Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s ‘Balidaan’ badge on his gloves and the subsequent noise it created, one thing comes to my mind: were Milkha Singh, Sriram Singh and Shivnath Singh less patriotic? Unlike ‘honorary’ Dhoni, the three superstars of Indian athletics were full-fledged, regular Army men but they never displayed Army insignias or badges on the ground. Yes, they did demonstrate the Indian Army’s lion-hearted courage when it came to performing on the track.

Milkha Singh ran around the world, including at three Olympic Games in Indian vest and not in his EME regiment colours. Similarly, Sriram Singh never flaunted Rajputana Rifles colours at Olympics or at Asian Games. Were they less patriotic or didn’t care for the Indian Army?

No one is challenging M.S. Dhoni’s love for the Army or the country. But rules of any sport are to be followed. You either follow them or quit.

The all-knowing aggressive anchors of most Indian TV channels are fanning the fire. Even more aggressive are some of the panellists who have no clue about the sport or the rules that govern it.

Even if M.S. Dhoni and the officials of the Board of Control for Cricket in India plea that the Balidaan badge has no commercial or religious connotation, I doubt if the ICC would allow M.S. Dhoni to carry on with the badge.

Also read: Politicise all you want, but Indian soldiers don’t fight in the name of nationalism alone

It is nice of Dhoni to identify with the regiment, the Indian Army, and come out with this gesture

Lt Gen Satish Dua (retd)
Former chief of Integrated Defence Staff, Indian Army

One cannot see anything objectionable; Dhoni did not sport a religious symbol or any inflammatory one

M.S. Dhoni is sporting the Balidaan symbol on his wicketkeeping gloves to honour the brave Indian Army soldiers of Special Forces, the Para SF. Himself a territorial Army officer of the para regiment, albeit honorary, it is nice of him to identify with the regiment, the Indian Army, and come out with this patriotic expression.

One cannot see anything objectionable in this. It’s not a religious symbol or in any other way, inflammatory to earn an objection. Sportstars often wear sport logos for commercial considerations or sponsorships. Sometimes they appear with a black arm band as a mark of condolence or protest against something or some event. It is just a subtle statement. And this one is a patriotic sentiment too. One also recalls that in a recent series, the entire Indian team had worn combat colours caps, a la army fatigues style.

Similarly wearing of the Balidaan symbol of para commandos too is a positive expression of patriotism.

In today’s world of ‘shooting from lip social media stars’, anything and everything undergoes unnecessary scrutiny. The naysayers are perhaps those with vested interests.

In my view, Dhoni deserves respect for according respect.

The daft Star Sports World Cup ads show how brain cells get affected when nationalism is mixed with sports

Jaideep Varma
Writer-director and founder of Impact Index

M.S. Dhoni is one of the most level-headed and smartest cricketers to ever play for India, but lately, he has been behaving uncharacteristically. During the last IPL, he had stormed into the field of play during a match to protest the umpire’s decision, and now this.

It doesn’t take an IQ of 180 to know that the Army is a political entity, for obvious reasons. Just because we may appreciate the Army’s services or take great pride in them, disproportionate or otherwise, it doesn’t mean that this pride can be expressed in an international sporting arena that takes great pains to separate sports from politics, also for obvious reasons.

If any sporting authority allows people to wear their nationalism literally on their sleeve, it won’t be able to stop any kind of symbolising from any country (disconcerting given the kind of extreme looniness gradually enveloping the world again). In any case, one just has to see the daft and embarrassing Star Sports commercials for the World Cup to see how nationalism, when mixed with sports, can affect the brain cells.

The main point anyway is this – it is the prerogative of the sporting authority to only allow commercial sponsor logos. If Dhoni feels such a deep need to profess his abiding love for the army, he could just dedicate India’s tournament win to them in his speech when the time comes. Or perhaps he is not so sure of an Indian win this time?

Also read: Dhoni was wrong. Champions should limit battle & nationalism to sporting skills

If you espouse cause of AIDS or breast cancer, would you not wear the symbol on your sleeve? Dhoni is doing just that

Harish Bijoor
Brand expert & founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

Why shouldn’t sportpersons be allowed to sport military symbols?

M.S. Dhoni is in the middle of a nationalist debate today because he wore an innocuous Balidaan symbol to the cricketing field.

The world is really a logo today. Logos have life. Logos have meanings. And when logos are not commercial, they are symbols. Both logos and symbols pack history, meaning, and passion. A commercial logo is a passion point for whole sets of consumers, and a symbol such as the one in debate is a passion point for whole communities and even nations.

The ‘commercial’ symbol to that extent packs a lot more of passion than the commercial logo. And that’s the point that riles us today.

The key point is whether Dhoni is wearing militarism or a passion for the Balidaan on his sleeve? Who is to tell? In fact, how does it matter to anyone playing the game of cricket, except one not so friendly neighbouring nation of ours?

I would imagine Dhoni sports the passion for the symbol more than anything else. Dhoni is not sabre-rattling on the cricket pitch with this symbol. If you espouse the cause of AIDS, would you not wear the symbol on your sleeve? If you support the cause of breast cancer, would you not proudly flaunt the pink ribbon? Dhoni is doing just that.

But then there is the case of personal right to flaunt a symbol versus the rules of the ICC. If the ICC requires a cricketer to seek prior sanction for the symbols and logos he sports, so be it.

There’s a limit to how far ICC can go. Black arm bands have been used to convey political messages

Abhishek Mishra
Journalist, ThePrint

Ideally, it should not be a problem. However, military symbols are a badge of honour. One should wear it, and not flaunt it.

Earlier this year, in the third ODI against Australia in Ranchi, Indian players wore camouflage caps to the field to pay tribute to the martyrs of Pulwama attack. Though the gesture was appreciated, it raised similar concerns.

M.S. Dhoni is not wearing the Balidaan insignia without any credibility. He has undergone his two-week training in the Para Brigade in 2015. Last year, he had appeared in his Lieutenant Colonel uniform to receive his Padma Bhushan award.

Outside of the cricketing field, these are sweet gestures and reflect his respect and love for the army. However, when on the field, I think the team is already representing their nation, be it the citizens or the military. I do believe that the overt display of military symbols in any sport can be dangerous.

Even if the ICC does not allow him to wear gloves with the military symbol, M.S. Dhoni can choose to wear camouflage gloves, which technically would not defy the ICC rules. This shows there is a limit to how far the ICC can go on implementing its rule. Other than military symbols, players have also worn black armbands to the field to convey strong political messages and the ICC has mostly been okay with that.

By Fatima Khan, journalist at ThePrint. 

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  1. What is more important.?World Cup or the insignia.

    Focus on the game and anything else that is a distraction needs to be discarded. Because at the end of the day there are ten other players in that game who are trying to focus on cricket.

  2. And this would give the right to every player to wear an ad for every cause he espouses. Which would lead to future controversies and distract from the sports itself. Hmmm……

  3. The precedence is pretty unambiguous. If service personnel themselves are not permitted to wear service insignia outside of their uniforms then Dhoni the “honorary” colonel is even less entitled to do so.
    Other than his two week training has he actually seen action anywhere? Even British royalty who get a military rank have to do active service. Unfortunately today we have an overdose of hyper-nationalism thanks to Modi’s exploitation of Pulwama, that was in fact something to be ashamed of.

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