In the wake of Pakistan’s magnificent win in Champions Trophy 2017, it is time to junk the unfair and hypocritical sanction against the country in terms of hosting cricketing events. Yes, in 2009 militants attacked a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team and injured a few of the players. But as recent events in cities like London, Paris, Berlin, Brussels show, terrorism has no respect for international boundaries.
The French Open hasn’t been abandoned because of the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo office and the Batacalan cafe in 2015, nor has international cricket been vanquished from London after multiple acts of terrorist violence. The rational, and right, view has been that terrorists should not be allowed to run our lives, and the best response is to bravely go back to business as usual.
The 146 women and men who died in the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai were not hand-picked terrorist targets. They were innocent victims and included Indians as well as foreigners. Yet a month later, India was playing England in India. Sachin Tendulkar, one of the architects of India’s cathartic win, dedicated his hundred in the win at Chennai to “all those people who have gone through such terrible times" and several players pointed to the extra zing they had in playing a role in providing a healing touch to a still-grieving country.
Sri Lanka itself, was in 1996, the scene of a similar act of courage after terrorists bombings in Colombo threatened the World Cup being held simultaneously in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka that same year. When teams from Australia and the West Indies decided to forfeit their games in that country fearing more attacks, Wasim Akram and Mohammed Azharuddin led a joint India-Pakistan team to play a friendly in Colombo to show solidarity for the country and also cock a snook at the perpetrators of the bombing.
Terrorism looks constantly for the next soft target and if we keep on declaring every new target as out of bounds for normal life, very soon, we will be left with only the playing fields of Siberia. It isn’t as if the global cricketing establishment isn’t aware of this. It has found it easy to keep the ban on cricket in Pakistan because the market there isn’t a money spinner.
If despite the misgivings of individual players, there were no sanctions against international cricket in India after 26/11, it is with reason. India is the heavyweight of global cricket. A tour to India or a tournament in the country keeps most of the cricket boards solvent. It would take a brave man to walk away from the riches on offer from playing in India. Pakistan, on the other hand, is the poor cousin, which punches well below its weight in international cricket.
The fallout of these double standards is being felt by an entire generation of young Pakistanis. Playing at home and doing well is the ultimate dream of any cricketer. India’s win in the 2011 World Cup was sweeter because it came in front of cheering fans. For young and talented Pakistani cricketers like Mohammad Amir, Fakhar Zaman and Hasan Ali playing in the desert sands of Abu Dhabi can never be compared with the thrill of winning in Lahore or Karachi.
It is time to bring Pakistani cricket out of the cold.