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ICC says Dhoni must remove Army insignia

M.S. Dhoni’s wicket-keeping gloves have always been an object of awe among the cricketing fraternity. The manner in which he pouches catches, his lightning stumpings and reverse flick run-outs have further enhanced a halo built around his muscular batting exploits. But little could he have imagined that his wicket keeping gloves would become the focus of a raging controversy that has set social media abuzz with a torrent of views of varied persuasions.

World Cup at Southampton, where India defeated South Africa by six wickets. Lost in the reporting of the day’s cricketing exploits was the sighting of an additional logo on Dhoni’s gloves. The logo, an Army signage depicting a regimental dagger insignia of the Indian Para Special Forces, raised the hackles within cricket’s governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC), as players are only allowed to sport two logos on gloves. Dhoni holds the rank of an honorary Lieutenant Colonel and his assigned unit is the 106 Territorial Army Battalion (Parachute Regiment).

Ever since news broke about the ICC’s request to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) asking Dhoni to remove the extra logo, a nationalistic narrative emerged on Twitter. The BCCI’s Committee of Administrators chief Vinod Rai backed Dhoni and said: “The BCCI has already sent a formal request to the ICC for clearance.” Making the issue more complex was the Indian government's support for Dhoni's gloves. Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju also off ered support to Dhoni. “I am hopeful that the BCCI will take up this matter with the ICC. M.S. Dhoni’s identity is the country’s identity, Army’s identity and it is not politics. So, BCCI should stand with Dhoni,” Mr. Rijiju told reporters.

The ICC, however, made clear that the extra logo had to go. “The ICC has responded to the BCCI to confirm the logo displayed by M.S. Dhoni in the previous match is not permitted to be worn on his wicket keeping gloves at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019,” it said in a statement. “The regulations... do not permit any individual message or logo to be displayed on any items of clothing or equipment.”

Dhoni has been at the centre of controversy over combining his military background with his cricketing career. In March, he distributed military-style camouflage caps to his team-mates who wore them during an international game - it was a tribute to the armed forces in the wake of an attack in Indian administered Kashmir that killed more than 40 paramilitaries. National sentiment ran high after the incident and brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war. Pakistan accused the Indian team of "politicising" the sport and demanded the ICC take action. The council responded saying that the Indian team had been granted permission to wear the caps. But it still caused a debate, with many pointing out that the council had previously reprimanded players for expressing political sentiments during international matches.

As per the rules, Dhoni would be reprimanded if he wore the gloves with the insignia in the match, when India face Australia in their second group match. The second offence, in case it took place within 12 months, would attract a fine of 25% of the match fee. A third offence would mean a 50% fine of the match fee, and a fourth would see the player losing 75% of his match fee. There is precedent for the ICC's decision.

In 2014, Moeen Ali was asked to remove wristbands bearing the slogans "Save Gaza" and "Free Palestine" during the third Test against India in Southampton. The ECB said Moeen's actions were humanitarian rather than political, but the ICC's view was that it was inappropriate for the field of play. No further action was taken.

In January 2017 South Africa's Imran Tahir was reprimanded by the ICC for a wicket celebration during a T20 match against Sri Lanka in which he revealed a t-shirt under his playing kit with an image of the late Junaid Jamshed, aone-time Pakistani pop icon and religious preacher who had died weeks before in an air crash.

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