This is not cricket, Pakistanis say

August 25, 2008

You have to be living in Pakistan, or have gone through the “madness” of the last year or so to understand the despondency that is likely to be caused by the International Cricket Council’s decision to postpone next month’s Champions trophy because of security concerns, writes columnist Osman Samiuddin.  

Cricket is close to most people’s hearts in South Asia, and for Pakistan to lose the game’s second most important tournament after the World Cup hurts. Yes, there is a war out there in the northwest,  yes there are suicide bombings, and in the middle of all this, there is political uncertainty that can turn ugly very quickly, as has happened so often in the past.  

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But do you shut out the country? Or stand behind it, especially if it goes out of its way to ensure that no harm would come to the players, no matter the multiple threats that ordinary Pakistanis face each day. Australia, as the Pakistanis said , hasn’t toured the country in ten years, so how it ever going to remove its negative perceptions unless it pays a visit?

As late as last week the ICC said it was satisfied with the security arrangements. But then, five of the eight nations  due to take part in the tournament said they wouldn’t be able to send their teams. Perhaps the one silver lining was India and Sri Lanka held out, refusing to join the boycott, which isn’t suprising, given that both suffer from the menace of violent attacks in varying degrees.

One writer said Pakistan was a soft target for the “ancient powers” of cricket, Australia and England,  and that they wouldn’t treat India the same way because of its economic heft.

South Africa’s Jacques Kallis at Karachi airport, 2007It’s not an easy call to make. Lives are important, and these are superstars we are talking about. If the players don’t feel confident about their well-being and are going to live in fear, can they really focus on the game ? 

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