That a proper restoration of international sports, particularly cricket, in Pakistan may not happen anytime soon is there for all to see. It’s disappointing indeed for cricket lovers in Pakistan that as many as 10 top Sri Lankan cricketers — including T20 skipper Lasith Malinga and former captains Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera — have refused to visit Pakistan even for a tour spanning only 15 days, citing security reasons. If at all, a second-string Sri Lankan team will visit Pakistan from September 25 for 3 ODIs and 3 T20Is scheduled to be held in Karachi between September 27 and October 9.
It does not make an easy choice on whether we should respect the decision of the Sri Lankan players to opt against visiting an ‘unsafe’ country on the advice of their families or lash out at them for failing to display sportsmanship by aiding a friendly neighbouring country in its efforts for cricket revival on its home soil. There are also reports of the Indian hand at work. Even though the Sri Lankan government has denied that their players have been browbeaten by the IPL controllers into opting out of the Pakistan tour, the politicisation of cricket cannot be ruled out altogether, for greater global gains.
Pakistan’s efforts to do away with the drought of international cricket, meanwhile, continue by fits and starts. Pakistan has not hosted a high-profile team for a full-length tour ever since the 2009 terrorist attack in Lahore on the Sri Lankan team. In May 2015, Zimbabwe became the first team to play an international fixture in Pakistan. The Zimbabwean side was given state guest-level security during the tour that features two T20Is and three ODIs. Then in October 2017, the Sri Lankan team had come down to Lahore for a day to play a lone T20I match while the ICC World Eleven and the West Indies have also played short T20 series in Pakistan in the last two years.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 12th, 2019.