Politics February 14, 2008

A letter to Australians

Cricketers have died or been seriously injured on the cricket field throughout the world while no cricketer has ever come to harm during Pakistan's "troubles".

Dear Aussies,

We hear you swim with sharks yet you cannot walk the same earth as 160 million of your fellow men and women? Pakistan may be a country demonised by the world and dubbed a basket case by the world's media yet the ground reality is something very different.

Pakistan is a country struggling with its identity like many emerging countries--how to resolve Islam with the modern world?--but it is not a dangerous place, certainly not for international cricketers. Benazir Bhutto's death was a tragedy but a political assassination has no significance for Australians.

Many countries have toured Pakistan since your last refusal and all their players have returned home safely. Indeed, cricket is held in such esteem that it is equally loved by young women in designer shades and old men with unkempt beards. All the religious men I have ever met in Pakistan have loved cricket and relished the challenge of Australia.

Hence, your refusal seems strange to me, borne of a mental caricature of a country that bears no relationship with the "risks" that you will face. To me, this smacks of cultural imperialism, an unwillingness to properly understand and engage with the reality of a much poorer country.

Instead you wallow in the splendour of your rich world lifestyles. This whole approach is against the spirit of cricket, a game that has helped bridge social and political divisions and conflicts.

I fail to understand the risks you perceive you will be exposed to? As I have argued before, these risks are far smaller than driving a fast car, crossing the road, swimming with sharks or any of the extreme sports you are famous for indulging in. Cricketers have died or been seriously injured on the cricket field throughout the world while no cricketer has ever come to harm during Pakistan's "troubles".

Failing all that, if you do fear the bombers of Karachi more than the bombers of London, Colombo, or Mumbai then please stay at home but you should allow braver, hungrier, and more realistic cricketers to go in your place.

Surely the answer for Cricket Australia is to assemble a team of the willing and honour its commitment to international cricket? The alternative is an international game that becomes increasing divided by false fears into a game of the rich and poor. Cricket has always had greater significance than most sports, and your attitude does this great game a monumental disservice.

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

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