BBC BLOGS - Mihir Bose
« Previous | Main | Next »

What now for cricket?

Post categories:

Mihir Bose | 14:50 UK time, Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Following the dastardly attacks on the Sri Lankan cricket team and accompanying officials in Lahore, all of us will rightly feel that this is no time to be talking about sport. The horrors that everyone went through and what the families of the bereaved are now experiencing can only be imagined.

I have never bought into the theory fashionable in some parts of the western world that life in the developing world is cheap. Having grown up as a child in that part of the world, I am very aware that life there is very different to the west and, for the vast majority, much more difficult. But it is just as valuable.

But even amidst the fearful carnage, the implications for cricket, though secondary, cannot be ignored.

The first question that always comes up in such situations is 'what is the International Cricket Council doing?' To be fair to that organisation - and charitable thoughts for cricket's international body do not come easily - it has very limited powers. For example, the Test series between Pakistan and Sri Lanka was organised by the country's cricket boards. The ICC's input was limited to providing umpires and match referees.

Nevertheless, it is significant that David Morgan, president of the ICC, has said in the wake of Tuesday's incident that it is hard to see international cricket return to Pakistan in the foreseeable future. This may have profound implications for ICC-run tournaments like the 2011 World Cup, 14 matches of which are due to be played in Pakistan, and the Champions Trophy.

In the years since terrorism took root in the country, Pakistani cricket officials and supporters have always argued that whatever happens no terrorist would ever dare target cricketers. Clearly, that argument can no longer be sustained.

It is hard to see how Pakistan, at least for some time, can avoid becoming a no-go area as far as cricket is concerned. It had already become so for the Australians and even Indians. Sri Lanka agreed to play in Pakistan following India's decision not to tour following the Mumbai attacks, but there was much of a pick-up-and-play element about it, the programme of matches showing the impromptu nature of the series.

It should be pointed out that the Sri Lankans were making their second visit to Pakistan in weeks, having gone there first to play several one-day matches before returning home for the long awaited series against India.

It is perfectly understandable that Pakistani cricket authorities wanted the series against Sri Lanka to take place. Just before the Indian tour was cancelled, the Pakistani board signed a $141m deal with a Middle East television network. It was because of this deal that an international cast of broadcasters, including former England star Dominic Cork, was brought to Pakistan to commentate on the series against Sri Lanka.

The impression Pakistanis were trying to create was that life, at least round the cricket field, was normal. We now know it isn't. Now to keep their cricket going they will have to play away from Pakistan. They have done that before and plan to do so again, taking on Australia in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in April.

But there are two new and very worrying things about the latest events. Even allowing for the fact that there can never be absolute security for anybody, hastily-arranged matches against the backdrop of the situation in Pakistan must make security even more difficult. Also, it would seem the perpetrators must have had frighteningly good intelligence about what was going on.

The really worrying thing - and this extends beyond cricket to all sports - is that in the most major way since the Munich attacks of 1972, a specific sporting team has become the target of terrorists. If this is a new trend, then our comforting belief that sport is different and can still unify could also be under threat.


or register to comment.

More from this blog...

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.