England all-rounder Moeen Ali has been told he cannot wear wristbands that read "Save Gaza" and "Free Palestine" for the remainder of the third Test against India.
According to Andy Wilson of The Guardian, Ali was cleared to wear the bands by England as they believed he was making a humanitarian statement, not a political one. But the player has since been told by the International Cricket Council’s match referee David Boon he must not wear the bands.
The ICC issued the following statement ahead of Day 3 of the third Test, per Wilson's piece:
The ICC Equipment and Clothing Regulations do not permit the display of messages that relate to political, religious or racial activities or causes during an international match.
Moeen Ali was told by the Match Referee that whilst he is free to express his views on such causes away from the cricket field, he is not permitted to wear the wristbands on the field of play and warned not to wear the bands again during an international match.
The ICC has already been accused of hypocrisy by some. England players will have "Help For Heroes" charity logos emblazoned on their shirts during Day 3 of the Test, as noted here by Samuel Luckhurst from Huffington Post UK:
And things could yet get worse for Ali. If the ICC feels as though he has breached its regulations, he could be hit with a level-one contravention and a subsequent fine of 50 percent of his match fee, per Mike Dawes of the Mail Online.
England have backed Ali over the bands, and when it was announced that the matter was to be investigated, they claimed their man had "done nothing wrong," per BBC Sport.
The bands are in reference to the Israeli offensive on the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
There has been a spike in Gaza this week and, according to BBC Sport, "Palestinian officials say 1,115 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed in the fighting since 8 July while Israel has lost 53 soldiers and three civilians - two Israelis and a Thai worker."
Undoubtedly a sensitive topic, the ICC's decision to remove Ali's wristbands is aimed at guarding the game of cricket from promoting inflammatory political opinions.
Ali could only score 12 runs with the bat on Day 2 of the third Test, but his England team look in a fantastic position to restore parity in a series which they currently trail 1-0. Centuries from Gary Ballance and Ian Bell put England well in control, as they declared in their first innings on 569-7; India finished Day 2 on 25-1 after James Anderson struck with the ball late on.
Since his integration into this England side, Ali has impressed plenty with astute batting and intelligent spin bowling. And despite the fact England have failed to win in any of their last 10 Test matches, the unwavering support for Ali regarding these bands emits a sense of festering togetherness in this England dressing room.
Hopefully this latest on-field controversy can be swiftly rectified and both England and Ali can concentrate on turning things around for the Three Lions, starting with a winning performance in the third Test of this five-match series.