Sambit Bal
Sambit Bal Sambit BalRSS FeedFeeds  | Archives
Editor, ESPNcricinfo

The Thursday column

To go or not to go

Safety is a matter of personal concern and players should be allowed to make the choice without the fear of recrimination

Sambit Bal

February 12, 2004

Text size: A | A



Will we see this in March?
© AFP


A couple of days into the Melbourne Test, when the Indian press corps were agitating over the existence of a letter purportedly written by the Indian team to the BCCI expressing apprehensions about the tour to Pakistan, I sought out a senior player for his views. The letter had been written and signed, he said, but not posted. He then confronted me with a question. "Tell me, would you tour Pakistan?" Without blinking, I said, "Of course".

It took me only a few moments to realise why it had been so easy for me be emphatic. A tour to Pakistan presented a unique opportunity and challenge to a journalist, which, it can be argued, is even more true for a cricketer. But it is infinitely easier to be brave when little is at risk. The threat perception for a famous cricketer performing on an open field in a packed stadium is understandably different from an anonymous journalist in the press box. The only time I have feared for my life was when I found myself alone with a ferocious looking dog on an empty street. The only list I have ever worried about getting my name on was a register of troublesome employees maintained by one of the companies I worked for earlier. I have never had a security guard posted outside my house. The tour should go on, not only for the sake of cricket, but also for a wider national cause. However, the legitimate player concerns must be addressed in a manner that is satisfactory to the players.

I spoke to two senior players last night and it is apt to say that they are confused. As cricketers, they want to make the trip, for they see the tour as a stepping stone for growth, both personally and as a team. Many in the current side haven't played a Test in Pakistan and there is recognition that it is a hole in their career. As a team, the Pakistan tour is an opportunity to draw closer to establishing themselves as the number two Test side in the world. But what they find hard to accept is that there has been, at least that's how it has appeared to them, more concern about signing sponsors and finalising television deals, than security. If it is not so, obviously, no one from the cricket board has yet, despite the apprehensions being aired over a month ago, thought it worthwhile to assure the players otherwise.

Two conflicting reports have emerged this morning, doing nothing but adding to the confusion. Incredulously, they both involve sections of the Indian home ministry. The three-member inspection team of the BCCI, which includes an inspector general of the home ministry, has expressed satisfaction over the security arrangements in the two venues they have visited so far, including the contentious Peshawar, while reports emanating from Delhi suggest that the home ministry is in favour of the tour being postponed. Unattributed stories are a classical device to test waters because the establishment can later conveniently deny them, but in this case, the home ministry has an obligation to make its official stand clear.

It can be argued that no place in the world is safe anymore and safety is only a matter degrees. Indians were perplexed when Nasser Hussain, then captain of England, voiced security concerns about touring India in 2001 because a war was on in Afghanistan. In 1996, India and Pakistan sent a joint team to Colombo as an expression of solidarity after Australia and West Indies pulled out of their World Cup matches citing security reasons. And now, Wasim Akram has exhorted Indian players to tour Pakistan in the same way his team did in 1999 in the face of threats from fundamentalists.

It is apparent, however, that Indian cricketers at the moment perceive the threat in Pakistan as being slightly different from that posed by Shiv Sainks, who, while being vandals and rioters, have had no history of organised terrorism. Of course, the cricket boards in both countries might have different views, which might be closer to reality. It falls on them to provide information and answers and then leave the decision to individual players. It's simpler for us, who have little at stake, to ask for courage. Safety is a matter of personal concern and players should be allowed to make the choice without the fear of recrimination.

Sambit Bal is the editor of Wisden Asia Cricket and Wisden Cricinfo in India.

RSS Feeds: Sambit Bal

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print
Sambit BalClose
Sambit Bal Editor-in-chief Sambit Bal took to journalism at the age of 19 after realising that he wasn't fit for anything else, and to cricket journalism 14 years later when it dawned on him that it provided the perfect excuse to watch cricket in the office. Among other things he has bowled legspin, occasionally landing the ball in front of the batsman; laid out the comics page of a newspaper; covered crime, urban development and politics; and edited Gentleman, a monthly features magazine. He joined Wisden in 2001 and edited Wisden Asia Cricket and Cricinfo Magazine. He still spends his spare time watching cricket.
Related Links

    'Like a ballet dancer'

My XI: Martin Crowe on Mark Waugh's lazy elegance and batsmanship that was easy on eye

    Sea, sun, scandal

Diary: Our correspondent takes in the sights and sounds of Galle and Colombo, and reports on a tampering controversy

    Worst keepers, and honours at Lord's

Ask Steven: Also, most keeping dismissals on debut, seven-for at HQ, and youngest ODI centurions

    From swinging London to Maco country

Diary: Our correspondent walks and buses the streets of the English capital, and then heads for the coast

Cook's Brearley lesson

Jon Hotten: Mike Brearley was an outstanding captain despite his repeated failures with the bat

News | Features Last 7 days

Vijay rediscovers the old Monk

The leave outside off stump has been critical to M Vijay's success since his India comeback last year. Contrary to popular opinion, such patience and self-denial comes naturally to him

Bhuvneshwar on course for super series

Only 15 times in Test history has a player achieved the double of 300 runs and 20 wickets in a Test series. Going on current form, Bhuvneshwar could well be the 16th

Ugly runs but still they swoon

Alastair Cook did not bat like a leading man but the crowd applauded him for simply not failing

India come full circle

India's wretched run away from home began at Lord's in 2011. A young team full of self-belief may have brought it to an end with their victory at the same venue three years later

Ishant's fourth-innings heroics in rare company

In India's win at Lord's, Ishant Sharma took the best bowling figures by an Indian in the fourth innings of a Test outside Asia. Here are five other best bowling efforts by Indians in the fourth innings of Tests outside Asia

News | Features Last 7 days
Sponsored Links

Why not you? Read and learn how!