India cricketer Ravi Ashwin has controversially compared the Chennai Super Kings' much-anticipated reinstatement in the Indian Premier League to Manchester United's return after the tragic Munich Air Disaster in 1958.
Twenty-three people died, including eight from the Old Trafford club, when a plane travelling back from a European Cup match in Belgrade crashed in the German city in one of the darkest days in world football.
In 2015, two-time IPL winners CSK were banned from the competition for two years for illegal betting activities involving players and officials, but are free to compete from next year. Ashwin was the franchise's leading wicket-taker in their two victories in 2010 and 2011.
But when asked about ending the enforced exile in 2018, the 30-year-old has risked creating significant offence by drawing an analogy between the suspense created by CSK and United's absence from their respective sports. The grief-stricken team, then managed by Sir Matt Busby who was among the survivors of the crash, played their first game just 13 days later.
"I think the two-year hiatus for CSK probably increases its value much like what it did for Manchester United when the air crash happened," he said, as quoted on CricBuzz.
"I don't know if it's in the same league but surely people in Chennai and fans across the world are waiting for CSK to return. I hope it turns out to be a good comeback."
Ashwin, who has made over 200 appearances for India across all-forms of the game, has attempted to defend the comments, insisting they have been misreported.
"Guys please take the reporting with a pinch of salt with respect to the Munich tragedy and CSK," he wrote on Twitter. "All I said was the break will make the fans turn up in numbers when the come back happens. Not required to blow it out of context."