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August 24, 2008

Champions Trophy

Old powers bomb a soft target

Kamran Abbasi
Giles Clarke, the new ECB chairman, addresses a press conference, Lord's, September 26, 2007
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Let's be clear: the chances of the next edition of the Champions Trophy taking place in Pakistan are next to nothing. The political compromise crafted in words by the ICC is a cover for the international blockade of Pakistan as a venue by cricket's traditional powers. The rift in international cricket, between old and new, is alive and well. India's economic might protects it from any possible backlash from the ancient powers of Australia and England, but Pakistan is a softer, easier target.

Indeed, the rise of money in international cricket means that cricketers and cricket boards can turn their noses up at an inconvenient tour of Pakistan, knowing that it will little damage their careers or their bank accounts. The campaign against touring Pakistan has been a cynical and hysterical drama based on spook stories and vivid imaginations.

Playing international cricket in Pakistan remains safe, just as it was a month ago when the Asia Cup was played there, and just as it was last year when South Africa toured. What remains unsafe, however, is the pretext upon which cricket boards have chosen to marginalise Pakistan. Cricket boards should have sent players willing to tour Pakistan and take the chance of furthering their careers.

The behaviour of the cricket boards of Australia, England, and New Zealand is no surprise. All three have always painted Pakistan and Pakistani cricket in the worst possible light, an attitude that has stemmed from their fundamental misunderstanding and suspicion of a culture that they little understand. A bomb in Karachi, by their bizarre calculus, is far more threatening to international cricketers than a bomb in Mumbai or London.

If their tunnel vision is unsurprising, then the response of the cricket boards of South Africa and West Indies is a bitter disappointment. In matters of personal safety, both countries are ill placed to preach to others. On the contrary, West Indian cricket has a long tradition of solidarity with the Asian cricket boards. Meanwhile, South Africa has a pivotal position in drawing together rich and poor worlds, a leadership role that it has failed in over Zimbabwe and now Pakistan.

But this lowest point in the history of Pakistan cricket is not entirely the responsibility of cricket's old and confused powers. The Pakistan Cricket Board has to accept equal share of the blame. Pakistan's cricket team is nowhere in international rankings, an unattractive side to host or visit. The board's unprofessional approach to managing players and processes gives the impression of a cricket structure in chaos.

The greatest failing, however, is Pakistan's unattractiveness as a venue for cricket--and here I don't mean the availability of alcohol, bacon butties, or nightclubs. The experience of playing cricket in Pakistan has to become an exciting one, with matches played on sporting tracks with lush outfields in front of packed crowds. International sport has moved a long way from being simply a sport, as the Olympics have reaffirmed. Top international sport now has to be a memorable experience for players and spectators to be viable. Cricket in Pakistan is a hard slog for all involved.

These failings of Pakistan cricket should not have been enough for the Champions Trophy to be postponed, but they are subjective impressions of a country and its cricket that inevitably will have influenced individual cricketers and made them reluctant to tour.

Pakistan cricket must rebuild from this lowest point. Yes, it is hard for sport to thrive in a struggling society but a formula must be found to rejuvenate Pakistan cricket and elevate it to the standards now expected of international sport. This responsibility for rejuvenation lies with Pakistan's new political leaders and they should understand the power of sport to unite peoples and provinces.

At the same time, the ICC must immediately address the issue of the future of international cricket in Pakistan. A major cricketing country is being isolated by irrational decision making. The PCB's call for clarity around the security measures required is a step in the right direction but it is only a small step. The concerned cricket boards must now commit to a structured return to Pakistan, which might begin with A team tours and short series to rebuild confidence and eliminate suspicion.

Above all, the current crisis reminds us that an international sport that relies on a small number of competing nations at the highest level is a sport that will always be at the mercy of powerful groups or even individuals.

International cricket is at a troubling stage in its evolution and its current leaders seem to favour shows of compromise over making tough decisions. The tough--but right--decision would have been for all boards to have agreed to the Champions Trophy taking place in Pakistan as scheduled. This is a precedent that international cricket may wish it had never set. It is certainly a decision that dumps Pakistan cricket at the lowest point in its cricket history.

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

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Posted by Concerned Citizen on (September 5, 2008, 1:00 GMT)

While it is amusing to see the aussies and the kiwis have learned a new word, "ISI." the fact of the matter is, they know next to nothing about the agency or what it does. but what they are doing is proving to everyone that their fears of Pakistan are based on internet publications with no authenticity or repute. Hence coming up with preposterous claims of Pakistan being a warzone.

It is funny watching them argue with everyone else whilst citing their tabloid knowledge of the world.

Posted by waterbuffalo on (September 1, 2008, 16:03 GMT)

Botham's comment of Pakistan being a place to send your mother in law is typical of the arrogance and hubris of the English and the Australians. Cricket is the main reason for touring, not night clubs and casinos, if that is what you need to make your players happy then you should tour Macao and Monaco. Fact is, the Aussies were promised 'presidential protection' but that was not enough, ergo, nothing is enough when it comes to touring Pakistan. This is just another in a long reason to hate Australia and Australians. Even the English hate the Pakistanis touring because of the support in Leeds, Birmingham and London which makes it seem almost like a home game. Botham, Flintoff, Strauss and co can stay home and booze it up isf they see fit, but at least admit the real reason is not terrorism, but that Pakistan is a boring country to visit and the Pakistani team is a tough team to play, don't hide behind bombs like the hypocrites and cowards you are.

Posted by Najam Butt on (August 27, 2008, 10:06 GMT)

The venue for the next IPL games should be Pakistan... we will then see how all the fears of the Aussies et all suddenly disappear. At one stroke Pakistan will be a place all these mercenaries want to visit.

Posted by Asif Sarfraz on (August 26, 2008, 18:49 GMT)

Guys, Guys, Guys! Take a chill pill! Relax! So much talk of bad things here! Blaming each other for this and that! Blaming each each other is the reason we have found ourselves in this situation! Writing on this blog is not going to change anything! We can't change the minds of these bad people they are just crazy, selfish so and so's!I got to say one thing to Kiwi Wonder though! You have truly been brain washed! Calm down! Talk about cricket! Although I am impressed by your research! Well done! Paul from London you sound like a genuine guy! Maybe some people need to go to Pakistan to see how beautiful the country actually is! You will actually be surprised by how many Westerners have taken residence in Pakistan as well! Forget the Champions Trophy that's all in the past now! I think Pakistan should organise as many games with Australia, South Africa, and may I say a very good up and coming England, so we can keep up to the standards of these teams! Games do not have to be in Pakistan!

Posted by noor on (August 26, 2008, 15:57 GMT)

I have read the post and amazed to find not one single post has refered to the question of the "Enemy Within Pakistan" These are suicide bomber killing inocent Pakistani. Why dont the whole country focus on these people who destroying Pakistan and Pakistan's international reputation. I heard one post saying Pakistan should play "Tit for Tat" Pakistan should not tour Aust, Eng, NZ and SA. Thats a laugh. Pakistan will be the losers by boycotting these countries. You think Aust or Eng are going to miss Pakistan. Pakistan cricket is a shamble, just above Bangladesh. If any fool out there think "Tit for Tat" is the answer is very much mistaken. Pakistan in the present climate should be grateful for any chance to play international cricket. "Gan mein khose hai nai, and Pakistanis sum muj te oonku sab miss kare gere" Pakistan should realize that the country is not safe and until the country unite and hunt down those talibans and sent them back to Afghanistan.

Posted by Sheraz on (August 26, 2008, 15:16 GMT)

Luke posts : "We believe there is a heightened threat to Westerners in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar and you should avoid any public locations known to be frequented by expatriates and foreigners in these cities at this time."

If I was a player being asked to tour, my Government's security assessment would override any assessment by the ICC.

However normal travellors do not have a crack team of guards looking after them all the time so the travel advice by the government is rather negated. We also have to bear in mind the future of the game. The current players are custodians of the game, if they start setting a precendent now by not touring then the long term future of the game is in doubt. It will be a pretty boring game to follow if there are only four decent teams out there as I firmly believe Pakistan cricket will not have much of a future, leaving only ENG/SA/AUS/IND out there.

Posted by Kiwi Wonder on (August 26, 2008, 14:18 GMT)

Vital !You said "Prove it or else put a lid on it"......Thats been ISI and Pak mantra for their terror support activities.... in their acting as ally for terror...in their act to help India root out terror while clandestinely support it......and you also are singing same mantra....NO....surprise...isnt it???..... Now read this.....which appeared in NY times Stephen Reich, another psychologist, had said Zardari was unable to remember even birthdays of his wife and children, was persistently apprehensive and had thought about suicide. According to the documents, Philip Saltiel, a New York- based psychiatrist, found in March 2007 that Zardari's detention had left him suffering from "emotional instability" and memory and concentration problems..............says a lot about Pakistan and its to-be leadership.

Posted by Ahmad Saeed on (August 26, 2008, 14:12 GMT)

I just want to say something about the posts send by some fellows blaming ISI for blasts in India. Dear Indian fellows first of all I must say thanks to the Indian Board for the Support. Its really a good gesture and in turn Pakistan will definitely be supportive when required.

Secondly i must not forget the WAH Cant blast few days back. Initial investigation has revealed that Some Indian agency is behind it. Now what do you say about it. But still this is all politics. I also want condemn the people saying words about ISLAM. The Slogan of Fundamentalist is given by the west for their purpose.

ISLAM is Religion of Peace. And PAKISTAN security situation is in much better state as compared when SA Visit and the ASIA cup were on the way. Its all about the Three Ws, Wealth, Wine and Women If Pakistan can assure these things to the likes of SA and AUS, then all is fine.

Posted by sani ban on (August 26, 2008, 7:19 GMT)

well said DEE.. thats what i tried to say on my previous post!!

Posted by vital on (August 26, 2008, 6:40 GMT)

grover!

Prove it..........or else put a lid on it

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamran Abbasi
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and wisden.com. Kamran is the international editor of the British Medical Journal. @KamranAbbasi

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