1983 World Cup-winning team urges wrestlers not to take hasty decision

 Kapil Dev
Former Indian captain Kapil Dev. File photo: Reuters/Francis Mascarenhas

New Delhi: Concerned that the protesting wrestlers could take the extreme step of immersing their medals into holy river Ganga, members of the 1983 World Cup-winning cricket team on Friday urged the elite athletes not to take a hasty decision and hoped their grievances will be heard and resolved.

Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia, who have been demanding the arrest of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Birj Bhushan Sharan Singh for alleged sexual exploitation of women wrestlers, took their protest to Haridwar on May 30 but did not carry out the threat of immersing their medals into Ganga.

On May 28, the Delhi Police had detained the wrestlers for violation of law and order when they marched towards the new Parliament building without permission.

The Police also cleared the protest site and made it clear that the wrestlers will not be allowed back at Jantar Mantar.

The police action against the wrestlers had invited criticism from different quarters.

"We are distressed and disturbed at the unseemly visuals of our champion wrestlers being manhandled. We are also most concerned that they are thinking of dumping their hard earned medals into river Ganga," a statement released by the 1983 World Cup-wining team read.

"Those medals have involved years of effort, sacrifice, determination, and grit and are not only their own but the nation's pride and joy. We urge them not to take any hasty decision in this matter and also fervently hope that their grievances are heard and resolved quickly. Let the law of the land prevail," the statement read further.

Under skipper Kapil Dev, the Indian cricket team had humbled the mighty West Indies to win the country's first World Cup title.

"I am not going to say anything individually, the whole of 1983 team stands by the statement we have issued," Kapil said.

Sunil Gavaskar, Mohinder Amarnath, K Srikkanth, Syed Kirmani, Yashpal Sharma, Madan Lal, Balkwinder Singh Sandhu, Sandeep Patil, Kirti Azad and Roger Binny too had featured in the final played at Lord's on June 25, 1983.

Among other former Indian cricketers, Anil Kumble, Robin Uthappa and Irfan Pathan have shown solidarity with the wrestlers.

The active cricketers are yet to comment on the controversy.

Reigning Olympic champion in javelin throw Neeraj Chopra and India's first individual Olympic gold medallist, shooter Abhinav Bindra, have also expressed anguish that wrestlers were forced on to the streets while demanding justice.

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