The decision by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to fine Azam Khan for displaying Palestine’s flag on his bat during a match of the National T20 tournament is nothing but a lack of acknowledgement for how influence must be used to raise voice and stand by certain causes. We have come far beyond an era where cricket celebrities and their aura could be restrained to just field performance. These are the times when people claim online space to assert what they believe in. Cricketers have the benefit of having that influence already.
PCB’s decision is receiving a lot of anger and for the right reasons. It is no way different from the ICC and BCCI raising objections on Muhammad Rizwans’s Pro-Palestine tweet during the World Cup. PCB replicating their stance is very disappointing. In a tournament that is being played domestically, and there are no two opinions on Pakistan’s official stance on Palestine, imposing a fine does not seem justified in any way. There is a rising trend in sports where athletes actively use the field, the ground, or the play area to project their support for or to announce their condemnation of events or happenings that are very political in nature.
We live in an age where asserting to be apolitical is also a political stance. Athletes should not be denied their voice and say. Across the world, athletes express their beliefs through various gestures, symbols, and statements during sports events, whether it’s taking a knee or displaying flags. They are influencers in their own right, and their influence must speak. PCB’s fining of Azam Khan is just one of the many ways organisations seek to regularise and police views and opinions. For a matter as close to everyone’s heart as Palestine, PCB’s conduct seems like a departure from reality.
Instead of being out of touch and imposing rules in the old-school way, PCB must recognise the evolving role of cricketers. They must have the space to speak up on political and social issues. They must be the drivers of positive impact and change because sports have always been a realm of winning hearts.