England v India, 3rd Investec Test, Ageas Bowl, 3rd day

Moeen Ali banned from wearing 'Gaza' wristbands

George Dobell

July 29, 2014

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Giles: Cricket not the place for politics

England batsman Moeen Ali has been asked to remove wristbands bearing the slogans "Save Gaza" and "Free Palestine" following a conversation with the ICC match referee, David Boon.

Moeen, a devout Muslim who welcomes the position of role-model and says he wears a long beard as he "wants people to know I am a Muslim," wore the wristbands on the first two days of the third Investec Test between England and India at The Ageas Bowl.

While the ECB defended Moeen's stance, describing his actions as humanitarian rather than political, Boon reminded Moeen of the ICC clothing and equipment regulations.

According to section F of the relevant ICC code: "Players and team officials shall not be permitted to wear, display or otherwise convey messages through arm bands or other items affixed to clothing or equipment unless approved in advance by the player or team official's Board. Approval shall not be granted for messages which relate to political, religious or racial activities or causes."

Boon also told Moeen that, while individuals are free to make political - or humanitarian - statements in their private lives, they do not enjoy such freedom while playing international cricket.

An ICC spokesman said: "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 while 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."

While the ICC have not guaranteed they will take no further action against Moeen, it seems safe to presume that all parties now consider the matter closed. He could, in theory, face a maximum penalty of a fine of up to 50% of his match fee if he is deemed to have committed a Level One offence.

It is not the first time cricket has struggled with the grey area between legitimate free speech and political statements. Andy Flower and Henry Olonga were both widely praised for their black armband demonstration during the 2003 World Cup, which was designed to turn a spotlight on the political situation in Zimbabwe and neither faced ICC sanction.

Both sides observed a minute's silence ahead of the third day's play to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. The England team are also wearing shirts bearing the Help for Heroes logo. Help for Heroes describes itself as "a UK military charity… formed to help those wounded in Britain's current conflicts."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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