'It is not the paramilitary regimental dagger that is embossed in his gloves. So Dhoni is not in breach of ICC regulations.'
The dagger insignia on Mahendra Singh Dhoni's wicketkeeping gloves put India's cricket administrators on collision course with the ICC after the BCCI declined the world body's "request" to have it removed, instead seeking permission for the star player to sport it.
Dhoni will continue sporting the insignia on his gloves as it is not a military symbol, asserted Committee of Administrators (CoA) chief Vinod Rai.
However, the world body is unlikely to accept that stand as the rule-book allows for only one sponsor's logo on the wicketkeeping gloves. In Dhoni's case, he already sports an SG logo on his gloves. Allowing the insignia would amount to "equipment sponsorship violation".
During India's opening World Cup game against South Africa in Southampton, Dhoni's green keeping gloves had a dagger logo embossed, which looked more like an Army insignia.
"The BCCI had already sent a formal request to the ICC for clearance. As per ICC regulations, players can't sport any commercial, religious or military logo. There was nothing commercial or religious in this regard as we all know," Rai said on Friday.
"And it is not the paramilitary regimental dagger that is embossed in his gloves. So Dhoni is not in breach of ICC regulations," he added.
His statement came after the ICC "requested the BCCI" to ask Dhoni to remove the sign from the gloves, citing rules which forbid display of messages "which relate to political, religious or racial activities or causes."
It is learnt that following the BCCI's request, the ICC's Cricket Operations team will discuss the matter with the World Cup's Event Technical committee, both headed by Geoff Allardyce.
The BCCI will be required to prove that the dagger insignia is not military symbolism and if the event technical committee is convinced, Dhoni would be allowed to continue sporting it.
Dhoni is an Honorary Lieutenant Colonel in the Parachute Regiment of the Territorial Army and dagger is part of their emblem.
"...in any case if they (the ICC) feel we will take permission as we took in the past like if you remember, those camouflage caps. We believe in conforming to norms of the game. And If ICC has a set of rules we will go by them," Rai said referring to the military caps that the team sported in a match against Australia to pay homage to the CRPF personnel who lost their lives in the Pulwama terror attack earlier this year.
"The CoA has not spoken to Dhoni," he added.
Rai's fellow CoA member, Diana Edulji also backed Dhoni.
"This is not an issue at all. We have not spoken to the team but we will back him (Dhoni) to the hilt, any Indian player for that matter," she said.
"Dhoni is not a controversial person, let us be very clear on that. I don't see any issue. They did in the past also (on giving permission for wearing caps). Hopefully things should be sorted out before the the game," she added.
The CoA's defence is based on the fact that the para-regimental dagger logo has word 'Balidaan' (sacrifice) inscribed on it, which is not the case with the logo sported by Dhoni.
The argument, however, may not cut much ice with the ICC if it strictly goes by rules. The CoA's intervention came after social media criticism of the ICC's objections.
When asked how India would respond in case the ICC insists on the removal of the sign and sanctions Dhoni for defiance, Rai said, "I think there has been a request to get it removed and not an instruction.
"As far as we are concerned, the BCCI CEO (Rahul Johri) will be reaching there before the Australia game and will be speaking to the senior ICC officials."
In New Delhi, Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju urged the BCCI to resolve the matter and offered support to Dhoni.
"... the issue is connected with the sentiments of the country, the interest of the nation has to be kept in mind. I urge the BCCI to? take a fair step in the Mahendra Singh Dhoni? case," Rijiju wrote on his twitter handle.
Various sportspersons such as Suresh Raina and decorated wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt also backed the former captain.