March 3, 2009 was a black day for cricket in Pakistan.
Although it were the Sri Lankan cricketers who were targeted, the biggest casualty turned out to be the future of international cricket in Pakistan. Negligence remained the biggest cause but the lack of efforts in events that followed should have resulted in sacking orders for all those responsible.
It’s now been over three years and our grounds – and not just cricket fields – are still deserted.
Former Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ijaz Butt failed to bring teams to Pakistan, perhaps afraid of a follow-up of the Liberty event. Zaka Ashraf, however, as soon as he took charge, vowed resumption of international cricket in the country, desperately trying his luck with various boards but nothing concrete has been established thus far.
Perhaps it will take many more years to wipe the scenes of the Lahore incident from our memories. Our assurances, and security plans, do not seem to be working.
All was well with Bangladesh
There have been detailed talks and reports of Bangladesh being convinced for a tour. Give up the International Cricket Council (ICC) vice-presidency for a tour, thought the PCB.
The idea worked, briefly. Initially there was a lot of excitement from the Bangladesh board despite rumours that the players were not comfortable with the idea of visiting Pakistan. But Mustafa Kamal, Bangladesh cricket’s chief, returned home a satisfied man after reviewing the security plan.
But Bangladesh refused to confirm the tour as the ICC refused to send its officials for a series that involved two member nations.
Using minds over hearts
But even if all concerned parties agree to tour, should a series in Pakistan actually take place right now? The solution to this situation lies in us handling our own weaknesses.
Where we have flaws, the enemies will take advantage. If we consider the apprehensions put forward by Bangladesh, and other nations who have preferred to play at neutral venues instead of in Pakistan, we can give perhaps justify their fear by looking at what happened in Lahore.
Similarly, Karachi has been experiencing a severe unrest in the last two weeks. Security officials are scarce and seldom seen on the streets. In fact, they are ordered not to be seen on the streets by their superiors for they might be targeted. Bangladesh were supposed to play their scheduled series in Lahore and Karachi but if a common man is not safe here, how can guest cricketers feel safe and secure?
Moreover, how can we even guarantee their safety if we, the residents, can not guarantee, that we will return home safe.
The solution is to start low — invite smaller teams like Lashings who seem to be eager to come here provided there is good money and security involved. It’s not that the Pakistan team is being isolated from world cricket like the South Africans were.
We’re still playing. And we need to continue playing. If the series goes ahead without any glitches, the proposed Pakistan Premier League can then be the next step in restoring teams’ tour of the country.
With so much money involved, you never know how hearts and minds can be over-ruled.
The writer is Sports Editor of Daily Express
Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2012.