December 4, 2008

Mike Holmans

Unsafe is the new safe

Mike Holmans

In a city which endured 25 years of an IRA bombing campaign as well as the bus bombs of 7/7, I know what it is to live with the shadow of terrorism over one’s home town.

We carried on playing cricket even in London despite explosions, and India is a vast country compared to ours. A bomb in London is an unlikely pretext for calling off an event in Rome, though Rome is nearer London than Chennai to Mumbai. On the other hand, none of our atrocities were on the scale of the Mumbai massacre, nor were they targeted at a specific group of foreign visitors.

Whether the Indian authorities, let alone the British Foreign Office or the ECB’s security advisor, would consider the India v England cricket matches to be safe to continue with, I could not know from thousands of miles away. I somewhat envy those who were able to sound off on air and in print with the certainty so many arguing both for staying at home and flying back to India displayed, but I did not feel able to post. It’s a relief that a revised series is going ahead: it’s what I had hoped for, but galumphing on people’s sensibilities by saying so without any worthwhile understanding of the circumstances just seemed tasteless or downright rude.

It’s hard to remember in the immediate aftermath of an atrocity, but a billion Indians and the entire English cricket touring party survived the Mumbai massacre completely unharmed. While one square mile was the scene of death and destruction, nothing out of the ordinary happened in over three million other square miles in the country.

The evil is impossible to ignore but, coldly looked at, it really is extremely unlikely that the next attack will hit an India v England Test match, of all the possible targets available.

What 9/11 did to us all was make it clear that nowhere can be completely safe. Whether we are going on holiday or business (and you can choose for yourself which category playing Test cricket comes into), we have a non-zero chance of arriving at the scene of a terrorist incident wherever we go. There is also a non-zero chance that the plane will crash, but we don’t stop flying because plane crashes are unpredictable as to where they will strike and usually cause enormous loss of life.

India is a riskier place than it was. There will probably be a next attack in India, just as there is almost certain to be one in Britain because London especially is an outrage venue currently fashionable in terrorist circles.

But we now live in an age where risk has to be assessed and managed since it cannot be eliminated. It’s unfortunate that men like Reg Dickason are the crucial decision-makers on whether tours should proceed, but it is inevitable. Sometimes trouble-spots will be too hot to go to, but it will always depend on the exact circumstances pertaining at the time. And even if the security consultants give their blessing, the caveats that they will inevitably attach to some reports will fail to persuade the odd player, which will be regrettable but not a cause for derision or condemnation.

We do not yet know whether the original party England selected will go. I shall not be surprised if one or two opt out, whether because they themselves are scared or they cannot bear inflicting heartache and worry on their families by being away in a dangerous place. Having lived through years of bombs in my home city, I would have few qualms about going, but if others do not share such a robust attitude, well, so be it. Cricketers are only required to show the courage to withstand a few hours of hostile fast bowling, not to be in fear of losing their lives by the hands of persons unknown.

It’s a pity about the disruption, because England will be far less well-prepared than they should have been. The one-day outfit are pretty clueless, but the England team knows how to play five-day cricket. While the batting is weaker than Australia’s, the bowling attack is better balanced because it will contain at least one and probably two serious specialist spinners, and if Flintoff, Harmison and Anderson continue with the form they showed during the English summer, they make a better pace attack than Australia had – so India’s batsmen might be challenged rather more than they were by the Aussies.

If that doesn’t happen, either because they don’t turn up at all or because they do but bowl badly, we can pick up the comfort blanket of the disturbing circumstances as a catch-all excuse – but let’s hope that won’t be necessary.

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Posted by Betty on (December 23, 2011, 4:15 GMT)

Just cause it's simple doesn't mean it's not super hlpeufl.

Posted by Mikso Mocha on (December 17, 2008, 6:32 GMT)

No country wants to visit Pakistan in forseeable future for obvious security reasons considering the hate for westerners . Mumbai was a one off incident and it sure smelled of Pakistani hand wether direct or indirect. But then the world is aware and expects a Pakistani connection to pop up in any terror act anywhere in world so its not a surprise. England are well aware that security forces and people in India DO NOT have rogue elements who get sadistic pleasure by kiling UK/USA citizens and so they were ready to tour India within 2 weeks...I bet a 1000$ Champions tropy will not take place in Pakistan in 2009 . The same time period will be utilised to stage IPL Champions league postponed due to unfortunate 26/11 incident and it will be a befitting reply to those who attempt to make India look as unsafe as Pakistan.Unless the common Pakistani (whom no Indian holds reponsible becos common man is always peace loving) rebel and force ISI to stop their acts....Isolation of all formis future

Posted by A.Lee on (December 5, 2008, 22:12 GMT)

To all the Pakistanis posting here bemoaning the double standards, I empathise with you. I agree it's unfair, but ultimately, it's up to all you fine folk to clear the perception that most Pakistanis are ultimately sympathetic to the cause of the terrorists. And until you work to clear that perception and get out of the "victim mindset" and get on with the job of getting the country back on track and get it up to where it belongs, this double standard will not go away. Indians also have this mindset but ultimately they are not viewed as sympathisers.

Posted by TRex on (December 5, 2008, 18:10 GMT)

I agree completely with the author. This article was nicely written. Mumbai is a safe place, at least as safe as London, Madrid or New York - going by the scale of attacks carried out on them! For good measure, Chennai has been chosen and is also a very good option. If test cricket goes on, it will be a massive show of world solidarity and be a complete "BURN" on the part of terrorists. Scientifically advanced and modern nations such as India and UK must not give in to stone-age reverting psychopaths!

Posted by Ven on (December 5, 2008, 17:27 GMT)

Why did Kirsten leave India? What made him think he's not safe in India? After all, the terrorists were after brits and the americans. They wouldnt have done him any harm if they got him. I dont think he set good example here. They say "When in Rome be a Roman". The same stays good for Kirsten - you cant run away from the country and later return back and say its a safe place.

Posted by sat on (December 5, 2008, 17:00 GMT)

Re:Muhammad Usman at December 5, 2008 2:18 AM Dont compare bombings in pakistan with india. All of your people including cricketers who talk about also being victims of terrorism: how many of you have stood up in your own country and fought against terrorism? first show the intent that you dont want it, then you can invite others to join you. and lastly about the pink rakhis: it only takes a little more brain than yours to openly display rakhis and convince people like you that they are hindus.

Posted by Bala on (December 5, 2008, 16:59 GMT)

Good article. As usual some heartburn comments are being raised not tolerating a victim returning to normalcy within short time. They conveniently forget the main difference between these two countries. It is like the risk of going into the deep forest being attacked by wild animals and the risk of going to the zoo. Ofcourse an accident in a zoo might scare the visitors one or two days, not for long.

Posted by Murali on (December 5, 2008, 15:08 GMT)

No one, nt even the bravest, embrace risk willingly. Specially in a strange land, which is what India is to the English cricketers. So let's doff our hats to the English and give their courage a standing ovation when they walk on to the pitch.

Posted by Andrew McLean on (December 5, 2008, 15:08 GMT)

Given that there have been similar attacks in India all year, it makes you wonder why England was touring the country in the first place. Secondly, it begs the question what has changed since the Mumbai bombings and whether it is now safer than it was a week ago. In my view the Mumbai attacks served to highlight that fact that terror attacks do happen in India. I spent two weeks in India on holiday last month and was well aware of the risks when I went. I intend to return early next year in the knowledge that those same risks will still exist. What also needs to be kept in mind, is that a team such as England could just as equally be targetted terriorists in England.

Posted by Muhammad Omer on (December 5, 2008, 14:12 GMT)

To be very honest, if it would have been the same in pakistan, the security check wouldnt have been conducted even, the tour would have been called off. well the balance of the power & money is towards India. Might is Right .. thats the rule of the day

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