What would 140 overs of Pakistan-Bangladesh cricket in Lahore have achieved?
Absolutely nothing for the improvement of the sport’s standards in Pakistan; nothing to help revive the dearth of international cricket in the country; and nothing to quench the thirst of fans.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), in its much-publicised bid to ‘give home fans what they wanted’, termed the proposed, much-discussed and deliberated tour an ice-breaking act, one that would force other teams to follow suit. However, an earlier confirmation that Pakistan was to go back to its nomadic days in August — when it hosts Australia in Sri Lanka — gives that very ice a stronger bond.
But as the yes, no, wait, yes from Bangladesh, even had the most indecisive of runners feeling great about life, priorities — not for the first time — lay severely misplaced. Pakistan, after several calls, found itself stranded, helpless and hapless. They reached the situation with adequate and advance warnings, though, as the opposition waned, swayed and wilted at crucial junctures. Former captain Zaheer Abbas had predicted this scenario as soon as the PCB made public its backing for Mustafa Kamal for the post of the International Cricket Council’s vice-president.
The whirlwind tour would have given Zaka Ashraf what he had engraved at the top of his to-do list from day one: bring back international cricket. This tour, however, would have hardly achieved the real objective. In order to achieve personal milestones — to accomplish what his much-detested, yet trusting and outspoken predecessor could not — Ashraf lost the plot somewhere in his early days, which was as much his fault as his aides, who sketched and contrived his each move and reply.
The emphasis with regard to the tour, it seemed, was on a team setting foot in Pakistan and not how it would benefit the local cricketers who — according to the PCB — have suffered immensely following the Lahore attack. Tour matches, for those who are knocking on the doors, are key for them to put their foot in. If it was really for the public, the entry for the matches would have been free — despite the PCB’s financial state — and watching a cricket match would have brought more joy than pain. The Lahore crowd wouldn’t have been the only ones showing their love for cricket.
The players — on both sides — would’ve been free to enact their trade without fear of being attacked, of playing under pressure and being watched not only by the 20,000-plus crowd but also by around 3,000 security officials — from all corners and rooftops. If Bangladesh were fully satisfied with the security arrangements and the situation in Pakistan, a full tour would have taken place and Kamal would have taken his own people into confidence before the handshake in Dubai.
But nothing of that sort happened. In the end, the court order is a lesson for the Pakistan authorities. The invitations seemed to have turned into pleading, stooping to new lows with nothing tangible in return. One minute a bilateral series against India is the need of the day, the next minute you term them cowards. The locals, judging by the attendance at bigger centres like Karachi and Lahore, are content with watching Pakistan on TV rather than the stadiums. And it is not as if the team is being isolated — 2011 was wonderful for Pakistan cricket with much more of the same following this year too, all at stadiums not in the country.
The continued snub of Pakistan cricket is not being endorsed here — the grounds, the players, the fans, and even the game need it. But when stubbornness is the order of play, reality is rejected, sanity is rebuffed and materialistic motives are alimented, even those earnestly hoping for an improvement sit back.
Cricket must come back to these shores and stay here. For that, logic must overcome obstinacy.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2012.