Pakistan cricket plunges into crisis
It’s just not cricket.
Ducking for cover as bullets replaced bouncers… players evacuated in a military helicopter that lands right next to a 22-yard pitch… the same strip at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium that saw Thilan Samaraweera score a double century the previous evening.
Samaraweera was hit on his leg during an audacious attack by armed militants on a convoy taking his team to the venue, an attack that left six cricketers injured and more than half-a-dozen Pakistani security personnel killed.
The world of cricket will never be the same again.
More worrying is the fate of Pakistani cricket. Tours to Pakistan were already a trickle with teams like Australia refusing to travel.
The matches against Sri Lanka came after more than a year of near pariah status. And even this tour was hastily arranged after India pulled out post-26/11.
After months of shadow boxing and pulled punches, the ICC had to suspend international cricket in Pakistan.
Tuesday’s attack also raised serious doubts about Pakistan’s chances of co-hosting the 2011 cricket world cup.
Authorities were already considering five alternate venues for the Champions Trophy.
The cricketing fraternity has expressed solidarity with both the Pakistani and Sri Lankan players. They were both shocked and saddened.
They also say the game must go on, but where?
When will Pakistan get to host an international cricket match again?
Some like former fast bowler Sarfraz Nawaz are worried that other cricketing nations might even refuse to invite Pakistan over fears of the threat of terror trailing the team all the way to their doorsteps.
It will indeed be sad if international cricket is denied to Pakistan, not just to the players but to the public too.
But diplomacy is a game played in the corridors of power, an arena far removed from the subcontinental dustbowls and narrow bylanes that has unearthed many a gem that has embellished the game of cricket.
What are the words that spring to mind when you talk about Pakistani cricketers?
Talented, temperamental, explosive and, more than anything else, unpredictable.
Hanif Mohammed, Mushtaq Mohammed, Imran Khan, Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad, Abdul Qadir, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Inzamam-ul Haq, Mohammed Yousuf, Younis Khan — the list is impressive and rather long.
What makes these players churn out performances which swing from the sublime to the ridiculous to supreme craft remains one of the mysteries of the world of cricket.
Unlike England or Australia or even India, many who represented Pakistan on the world stage emerged despite the system in a country which today is bereft of a proper domestic cricket calender.
Today, the question is whether that mystique will be lost to the world, if not forever, at least for the foreseeable future.
And will the country itself be pushed into further isolation?