After the successful staging of Pakistan Super League (PSL) final in Lahore this year, the International Cricket Council (ICC) planned to send World XI to Pakistan in September for a four-match Twenty20 series in Lahore to build the international cricketers confidence to play in Pakistan.
Winning the ICC Champions Trophy last month improved the chances of World XI tour to Pakistan. But the last week bomb blast in Lahore again reduced the chances of international cricketers touring Pakistan.
The series was planned to mark Pakistan’s 70th Independence Day and to finish the draught of international cricket in the country since the attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in 2009.
ICC’s Pakistan Task Force, headed by Giles Clarke, the president of the England and Wales Cricket Board, planned the series with PCB.
Despite the blast, the PCB is confident of finalising an agreement with the ICC to have a World XI team playing in Pakistan. Head coach Mickey Arthur also hopes that the proposed World XI visit will go on.
Except Zimbabwe’s tour two years ago, Pakistan have had to play all of their “home” matches outside the country. Former Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq retired without leading the side on home soil even once.
Pakistan’s status as an international sporting venue came under doubt after terrorists attacked the bus carrying Sri Lanka’s cricketers to the Gaddafi stadium, Lahore, in March 2009. Five cricketers, including Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, received minor injuries. Ajantha Mendis, Thilan Samaraweera and Tharanga Paravitarana were also injured in the attack which killed six security men and two civilians.
Terror attacks have happened in America and Europe as well. But no team or player ever refused to play in these countries.
Even after a bomb blast in Manchester just a week before the ICC Champions Trophy, in which around 22 people were killed, no team or player refused to take part in the trophy.
After the 2008 Mumbai attacks, some of the English players were unwilling to return for the Test series in India, but the BCCI officials requested England team to come back to India for the Test series, saying that otherwise terrorism would win.
Indian media and former cricketers argued that England should play in India and not allow the terrorists to succeed in spreading fear, despite reports that terrorists were attacking mainly British and American citizens.
But when the Indian government chose not to send the team to Pakistan, the Indian media and these same players supported their government.
In 1991, Shiv Sena’s activists damaged the Wankhede Stadium’s pitch two days before Pakistan’s ODI series in India. Pakistan not only continued their tour but did not even ask to change the venue.
In 1999 again when Pakistan were touring India, Hindu militants dug up Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium pitch. But Pakistan played there.
In 1998, on the tour of South Africa, Pakistan’s Saqlain Mushtaq and Mohammad Akram were mugged near their hotel. Saqlain and Akram were crossing the road outside the hotel to eat at a local Indian restaurant when a car drew up. Two men jumped out and demanded money. As a result of this incident Saqlain needed a neck brace, while Akram was left nursing a severe gash on his bowling hand.
If Pakistan could continue their tour why are other teams hesitant to come to Pakistan?
Australia continued their tour of England in 2005 even after the 7/7 bomb blasts, which left 52 dead and around 700 wounded.
Last year, a group of gunmen attacked a restaurant in the diplomatic quarter of Dhaka, killing policemen and civilians, mostly foreigners. After this England’s limited-overs captain Eoin Morgan showed his concerns about the tour to Bangladesh in October and said that neutral venues may be “feasible if it came to that”.
But Bangladesh Cricket Board’s Chief Executive Nizamuddin Chowdhury categorically rejected any talk of playing England at a neutral venue.
If Bangladesh board can take such a strong stand and refuse to play on neutral venue against England, why does PCB fail to take a solid stand? Terrorism is not an issue in Pakistan only. It has happened in many countries.
Last year in an interview, PCB Chairman Shaharyar Khan admitted that the board itself was hesitant to host a series at home. “We do not want to take a risk,” he said.