Australia and Pakistan tour of the UAE April 7, 2009

A wilderness age, a battle for survival

Many of us love sport for its unpredictable twists and turns. Let's take the final one-day match of England's tour, for example. Or the captivating fluctuations in fortune of the English Premier League. On-field events are the focus of our fascination, a blessing that Pakistan cricket has not received for almost two years.

Pakistan's upcoming series against Australia offers a glimmer of hope that cricket might steal the headlines from non-playing controversies and tragedies. For the blight of Pakistan cricket is that off-field twists and turns have become so routine and so miserably damaging that a series without unnecessary distractions would be a cause for celebration.

It is hard, for example, to be enthusiastic about the recall of Shoaib Akhtar. Few Pakistan bowlers have matched Shoaib in full flight but even fewer have emulated his frailty. How many recent series have been preceded by positive statements about his fitness? Pakistan's globetrotting future must belong to other pace bowlers, a sad realisation even for this Shoaib Akhtar fan.

Shoaib has been a victim of circumstance as well as his own ill-judged approach to international cricket, a conclusion that holds true for Pakistan cricket in general over the last decade. It's payback time. In these days of domestic crisis, international isolation, and widespread misery, Pakistan's cricketers and administrators carry a great responsibility to help lift the mood of a battered nation.

Nobody can seriously expect a victory over Australia but some on-field heroics, some verve and passion would be a start. Unity and professionalism would help further. This wilderness age of Pakistan cricket requires a noble and determined spirit. Pakistan's players might be unfairly burdened with such responsibility, they might be ill-equipped for it, but they bear it nonetheless.

The battle for the survival of Pakistan cricket, a microcosm of a greater battle for survival, begins here.

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