Former Indian players on Wednesday not only backed Hockey India’s decision to send back Pakistanis but also advocated more stringent action even as players from across the border urged that the upcoming bilateral series should not be derailed due to the ongoing conflict.

HI barred all nine Pakistani players from participating in the Hockey India League and sent them back as protests grew against Pakistan’s ceasefire violation at the Line of Control.

Pakistani troops killed two Indian soldiers and decapitated one of them recently, an act described as ‘dastardly’ by the Indian Prime Minister.

Right decision

Ashok Kumar, member of the 1975 World Cup-winning team, said ideally sports and politics should not mix but this was the time to come up with such a tough response.

“I think this is a right decision. Players are also human beings and citizens of this country. I agree that sports should be kept away from this, but now all limits have been crossed,” Kumar told PTI-Bhasha. “We must give a strong message to Pakistan that we don’t want any people-to-people contact with them. It can be done by not allowing their artists and sportpersons to perform or play in India,” he said.

Another Olympian and Arjuna awardee, former Indian player Mukesh Kumar suggested that Pakistani cricket commentators Rameez Raja and Wasim Akram should also be sent back.

The two former cricketers are part of the commentary panel for the ongoing one-day series between India and England.

“I think Hockey India took the right decision by sending back Pakistani players. There was no point in inviting trouble for the league. But my question is what are former Pakistani players Rameez Raja and Wasim Akram doing in India. How come they are allowed to do commentary. They should also be sent back,” he said.

Meanwhile, three-time World Cup champion and chief coach of the Pakistan national team Akhtar Rasool said the bilateral series, to be held in March in both the countries, should go ahead.

“Personally I feel that this is not a very good development. I wanted them to play in HIL but I respect the decision of the organisers. They must have taken it after a lot of consideration,” Rasool said from Pakistan.

“India and Pakistan must play each other to reduce the dominance of European teams over world hockey. This series will convey the message that sport can build bridges. People across the border will enjoy it,” said the veteran, who also won Olympic silver (1972 Munich) and bronze (1976 Montreal) medals.

Save the game

Hasan Sardar, rated as one of the best forwards in the world and winner of Olympic (1984) and World Cup (1982) gold medals, said sport should not suffer in this row.

“There are certain elements in both the countries who do not want them to get closer. I think sports should be kept away from this as it is the medium to present the country in a better way to the world,” he said.

“We have won the World Cup and Asian Games in India. I still remember the warm welcome and love bestowed on us by the Indians. Shopkeepers refused to take money from us, that kind of respect was there,” said the veteran, who had scripted Pakistan’s 7-1 triumph over India with a hat-trick in the final of the 1982 Asiad.

“I still think that there is no problem playing in India except Mumbai. Mumbai can be avoided,” he said. — PTI

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