Shootout in Lahore March 4, 2009

Stand by me

The appalling events in Lahore have thrown a cloak of gloom over world cricket, and Pakistan cricket in particular

The appalling events in Lahore have thrown a cloak of gloom over world cricket, and Pakistan cricket in particular. They have been covered comprehensively on this site and elsewhere by those far better qualified to comment, and far more acutely affected by the acts and their repercussions, than I am. I can add little but the same sorrow for the victims, the same relief that worse was avoided, and the same hope that Pakistan can live on as an international force, that all cricket lovers must be feeling.

Cricket will now have to attempt the impossible balancing act between player and public security and a refusal to bow to a violent microminority. Terrorists disgust and bore me at the best of times, and their self-indulgent, posturing destruction becomes no less repellent and tedious when they assault the world of sport, which is supposed to provide humanity with a temporary escape from the harsh realities of reality.

And cricket needs Pakistan. The Test game had been significantly less vibrant over the last 14 months without them. My first exposure to Pakistan cricket was in the brilliant 1982 series in England, when my nascent cricketing interest was far more intrigued by Mohsin Khan, Imran Khan and Abdul Qadir than it was by Chris Tavare, Ian Greig and Eddie Hemmings.

I was lucky enough to be at The Oval in 1992 to see Waqar Younis blast out Stewart, Atherton, Gooch and Gower in eight thunderously perfect overs of new-ball devastation. Concerted collective action will be necessary to ensure that the Waqars of the future will be able to make the Athertons of the future involuntarily head a barely-seen, almost-supersonic ball over the wicketkeeper for four leg-byes, as happened that day. This is set to be perhaps cricket’s greatest ever challenge.

The top-level international game involves few teams, which is both a strength, as it engenders the ongoing rivalries that have shaped and enlivened the game, and a weakness, as it is seriously compromised by the absence or decline of any of its members.

World cricket has a chequered recent record in acting for the collective good of its nations. It must now do everything in its power to help Pakistan maintain a prominent standing in the international game while its domestic situation remains so depressingly, apparently intractably, vulnerable.

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer