The ‘Missing Cricket’ Mystery!

People of Pakistan owe it to the nation do everything possible to attract international sport to return

Khalid Saleem March 11, 2019
The writer is former ambassador of Pakistan and ex-assistant secretary general of OIC

The fact that some matches of PSL are scheduled to be played in Pakistan has given rise to sighs of relief. There is no reason to feel overly smug about the affair, though. One continues to have the nagging feeling that there is more to it than meets the eye. The fact that a smattering of players from other cricketing nations opt to take part in the matches is neither here nor there. The unanswered questions, however, are still begging for answers.

Our objective — if one can call it that — would be to unravel what Sherlock Holmes would have referred to as the ‘Case of the Missing Cricket in Pakistan’. Sages over the years have rightly opined that it is always a good policy to begin at the beginning. So here goes!

The year was 2009, and the visiting Sri Lankan team was in the midst of playing a Test match in Lahore. The mood in the city was festive and a goodly (and excited) crowd was waiting with bated breath at the Gaddafi stadium for the start of the day’s play. This is when disaster stuck.

The bus carrying the Sri Lankan team was approaching the stadium when it became victim of a deadly militant attack. Luckily no player lost his life, though many suffered injuries. All thanks to the courageous bus driver who showed guts to speed the bus out of harm’s way and on to the stadium. What follows is a layman’s clumsy attempt to make sense of it all.

The mystery gave birth to several sub-mysteries. Let us allude to one instance: not too long after the attack, our ever vigilant visual media started showing footage from the CCTV cameras en route. In this footage, the terrorists could be seen brandishing their weapons all around the site of the terrorist attack. This raises pertinent issues and these in turn lead to myriad unanswered questions.

For one, why was no effort made to use this footage to identify the terrorists and nab at least one of them? Security agencies have been known to catch criminals with the help of skimpier material. And yet this terrorist group appears to have melted into thin air.

The Sri Lankan team was whisked away by helicopter to the airport and flown home apparently without even formally recording their preliminary statements.

A shocked public learnt to its horror that this country had been declared off-limits for visiting cricket teams. This decision of the denizens of International Cricket Affairs appears to have been accepted lying down. One finds in the archives little or no effort to challenge this edict or to clear the fair name of the country. By hindsight, the man in the street may be excused for looking askance at what followed.

Around this time, big wigs of the game in this blessed land came out with the bright idea of ‘outsourcing’ the game to the UAE as venue for our ‘home series’. It may have made financial sense to the local czars of cricket, but made little sense to the man in the street who was wedded to the idea of being part of a live crowd cheering their heads off to buck up their team.

Fast forward to the present when the prime movers of the PSL are trying with some success to use pseudo-international matches to whet the palate of the lovers of the game. The people of Pakistan owe it to the nation to put their shoulders to the wheel and do everything possible to attract international sport to return, grow and flower once again in this blessed land.

Surely the lovers of sport in this country — and there is no dearth of them — deserve a break. It would be nothing less than a tragedy if they were to face disappointment once again. If the aforesaid has had the effect of ruffling a few feathers, one can do no better than offer one’s sincere apologies all round.


Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2019.

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