19th May: Sunrisers v Kolkata Knight Riders, 14:30 GMT
16th-20th May: 1st Test, Lord's
Mark this day; for it has been written in history with the same stain as one written long ago, when terrorists gunned down Israeli athletes in the Munich Olympic Games. Some might say that the scale of the two catastrophic events differs a lot and the loss of life has been controlled in Lahore on this day. But as much as the sacrifices of those brave policemen cannot be undermined, there has been a casualty as big as the one in 1972.
It is by no way a statement blown out of proportion for it was almost as if the gunmen were making a point, just because they could make it. The sporting spirit has been hurt as much as the sentiments of the common man, in the limp figures of the slain policemen. A Sri Lankan team which made a larger than life gesture, by agreeing to tour in the wake of an Indian pull out, was made easy targets.
And it is not about cricket alone. Are cricketers above other athletes who play say, hockey or volleyball or football? The underlying point is that what team will now be willing to go to a country where there is no assured security for them there? Representing your country in sport is all very good but, with all due respect, that job profile doesn’t require you to leave behind your loved ones and take bullets on your torso or bear shrapnel flying around after a grenade attack.
Sport is not just sport anymore. It is a medium for every one who loves sport, playing or watching, or nowadays even investing in it. Cricket in the subcontinent is an investment-high stake game and each of the four teams from this region only knows this too well. The Sri Lankan Board must have also fulfilled some ulterior motives – monetary and political – as well by agreeing to go ahead with the Pakistan tour. Why, even some vested interests in the BCCI wanted to see the Indian team to go ahead with their tour, just so that they could harvest Pakistan cricket and its cricketers afterwards.
With cricket, and pretty much every other sport, alienating itself from their shores, such ventures will pretty much dry up and that would mean that the already emptying coffers of the sports bodies in that country will have nothing to develop fresh talent with. The ultimate destination of such a scenario is that Pakistan will have no more representation in any of the sporting events across the world and that is a horrible ending indeed.
Already there are reports that immediately after the attack, the Pakistan stock index took a deep tumble and would take a long time to recover. Much of this country’s already weak economy is based on trade relations, especially within the Asian sub-continent. With nobody providing their vested interests any sort of security, even investments outside sport would be hard to come by. Isn’t that a holocaust of sorts just waiting to happen, the whole country falling to the dogs?
Pakistan is not a safe haven any more for visitors and that is the truth for common folk, businessmen or athletes alike. Why does one say so? Well, because in the ten weeks that have now passed since the Mumbai attacks, instead of taking responsibility and doing something concrete about it, India’s hallowed neighbour has only kept itself busy with denial. For if they had realised that the problems were deeply entrenched within their boundaries, then, two weeks back they wouldn’t have signed a peace treaty with the Taliban, who have now taken much of North-Western Pakistan under their control.
The above point may not sound as cricket talk, for it is not. It is all beyond cricket now; for the men and women who play this game – or any other game for that matter – are only armed with wooden willows and leather balls at best. And just take a look at what they have to face – AK47s, grenades and rocket launchers. When people are on the verge of losing their lives, one cannot just simply sit and talk just cricket.
Sure, the people of Pakistan need our sympathy and help from the international society, for they cannot fight this menace alone. That is primarily because they are striking at will, at any time and any given place, be it New York, London, Mumbai or now Lahore. But what needs to be understood that the powers that be in their country, now have to understand fully well that the time for hollow talk is gone. That they cannot cover up any more what is going on in their country, for sooner or later, the international community will follow the steps of the world cricket community in isolating them. If they continue treading the path they are currently on, it is only then they will realize that this evil cannot be tackled alone but by then, it might just be too late to ask anyone for help.
Yes, the cricketing community has isolated Pakistan. Any average bloke, if walking the streets of Lahore or any other Pakistani city today, can be assured of the fact that he won’t be seeing his country host another cricket team for a long, long time to come. What is even sadder is that this time span will encompass the World Cup in 2011. Earlier, the best argument to try and lure teams to visit Pakistan was simple: no cricketer has ever been targeted. That argument has now been destroyed.
This is the end for cricket in Pakistan as we know it.
© Cricket World 2009
Chetan Narula writes a weekly column from New Delhi which appears on CricketWorld.com every Tuesday. He also appears on Cricket World® Radio's weekly Around The World show with his bulletins on cricket in South Asia.