A long winter looms for Pakistan cricket
That myth was exploded on Tuesday after gunmen wounded six Sri Lankan players after firing heavy weapons as their team bus wound its way towards the Gaddafi stadium in Lahore to start the third day’s play in the second test.
While the players apparently escaped without serious injuries, at least eight Pakistanis lost their lives and a local umpire was critically wounded.
Cricket will never be the same again in the region.
Sri Lanka’s tour had itself come in the shadow of violence after the Indian government, its bilateral relations with its neighbour nosediving after the deadly November militant attacks in Mumbai, refused permission for its team to tour Pakistan in January-February.
The island team stepped into the breach, with Pakistan desperate for test cricket and money, having gone over a year without five-day games.
Former skipper Inzamam-ul Haq betrayed the helplessness of cricket administrators in Pakistan, unable to believe that militants, to draw global attention, could have targeted their favourite game.
“Such an attack on a sub-continent team means other teams will simply refuse to come,” he told a television channel.
Inzamam’s comments showed the realisation that the attackers had wiped out cricket’s healing touch in one go.
Even at the peak of the ethnic strife in Sri Lanka, cricket teams or even media covering matches never felt threatened, although bombs have gone off in capital Colombo leaving teams such as New Zealand and South Africa shaken and abandoning their tours.
Players have never been targets and many were confident the kind of deadly attacks on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics would never be repeated.
So has the attack finally dashed Pakistan’s hopes of staying on as a joint-host of the 2011 World Cup alongside India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka?
Pakistan seemed to nurse hopes even when the International Cricket Council (ICC) postponed the Champions Trophy last year with five of the eight teams set to boycott due to security fears. They then shifted the second most important one-day event in February out of Pakistan.
Although the influential Indian cricket board has largely stood by their Pakistan counterparts, attacks such as the one in Mumbai and Lahore have meant governments and security experts of the ICC have taken charge.
With teams such as Australia, New Zealand and England already refusing to travel to Pakistan, will the attack be the last straw for sub-continent teams in the years to come?
It looks like Pakistan cricket is set for a long winter.
PHOTO: Sri Lankan cricket team members prepare to board a Pakistani military helicopter at the Gaddafi stadium after the shooting in Lahore March 3, 2009. REUTERS/Syed Mujtaba
For a slideshow of photos on the shooting, please click here.