World Cup 2011 April 17, 2009

Sad, but it's the right call

The ICC's decision to remove Pakistan from the list of World Cup hosts was inevitable; now Pakistan must focus on finding an alternate base for their future home contests

It was only a matter of time before such a decision had to be made. A global event, cricket's showpiece no less, cannot be organised on ifs and buts, on what may or may not happen. Though it is difficult to imagine it now, the situation in Pakistan may well improve by 2011, but the ICC cannot wait. It has to work on as much certainty as it can, for preparing with anything less is preparing for disaster.

In such darkness, sadness is understandable, even desirable if it brings introspection, but there should be no place for anger. To pretend, as some ex-players seem to be doing that this is a shock, that Pakistan has been somehow cheated is misguided. It is hollow posturing. Could any team seriously be expected to tour Pakistan after what happened in Lahore? The very point of Sri Lanka's visit was to prove that cricket can go on even as Pakistan burns. The only thing the tour finally proved was that the fires within threaten to take everything down with it, cricket being just one relatively insignificant victim.

If that message has not gotten through now, day after deteriorating day, then we can only be embedded in a deep state of denial and that is even more worrying. Ijaz Butt's tasteless attack on Chris Broad and needless defence of the indefensible in the immediate aftermath of Lahore was merely one more drop in this vast ocean of denial. Perhaps it is just that the sheer barbarism, the volume and velocity of atrocity over the last two years has desensitised us. We may be numb to it, but the wounds around the rest of the world are still fresh.

Anyway, believing now that the situation here is no worse than the rest of the region, or that security will be better next time, is to miss the point. It isn't the argument any longer that such an attack can happen anywhere: it has only happened here and nowhere else. In Pakistan, cricket is now a target and given the problems various security forces have had against the threat, given the fact that security institutions themselves are repeated targets, can any international team feel safe here?

The quicker Pakistan moves on from such emotions the better and the quicker the PCB accept that there will be no international cricket here in the near future the better. An alternate home, or a few, must be found. In appearance the Dubai Sports City stadium is magnificent. Younis Khan and his team have been suitably impressed by the facilities. Maybe it will lack soul but people thought that of Sharjah's early days too. Alternatives are present and the board claims it is working on a number of them, but the Middle East is feasible and workable. Some kind of semi-permanent arrangement must be inked in and soon.

"It isn't the argument any longer that such an attack can happen anywhere: it has only happened here and nowhere else. In Pakistan, cricket is now a target."

These ideas are not new. Until now, however, they have mostly been floated by people outside of Pakistan. It would be considerable service if the PCB and the wider Pakistan cricket fraternity tried now to make a case for why they must seek such options; why we must now, even at this late hour, be pragmatic and rational about it and not be slaves to emotion.

Pakistan cannot come out of this alone. The ICC and the cricket world must ensure that Pakistan doesn't continue to meander away like some unruly, sulking misfit. Financially there will be blood; who knows what repercussions there are now for the PCB's recently-inked in TV rights deal? Wealth is concentrated in world cricket, but there is considerable wealth nonetheless and some of it must be spread to make sure Pakistan doesn't wither away. If some kind of compensation can be agreed upon and paid for the potential loss of revenue from the loss of the World Cup, the gesture will be a potent one.

FTP home commitments must now be reworked and flexibility shown in working Pakistan into future schedules. The current FTP mess Pakistan is in is admittedly a result of the incompetence of its own administrations, fumblings it can ill afford to repeat. A year such as 2008 must never come again.

It wouldn't hurt if somehow Pakistan got their team right either. The last two years have been doubly troubling because the team has been poor. Pakistan sides have always been free and easy with focus, direction and discipline, but wherever they were headed they went with an in-your-face, screw-you gusto, difficult not to admire. Recently, they have meekly drifted into a bland, colourless mediocrity, without a fight, without so much as a yelp.

Victory is victory, home, away or in the middle of a desert. And nothing, not even the deepest pockets, eases the pain of so much else - or guarantees relevance globally - quite like sustained success.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rob on April 22, 2009, 11:14 GMT

    Time to secularise states where religion has a direct say in politics. In secularised states in the west religion has enough of a say in politics as it is. Without the possiblitiy for a member of the clergy to be an active part in politics. This separation of church and politics wasn't done for nothing, remember that! Everyone is entitled to believe whatever they want. It is however not on to pressurise others into believing what you believe by means of politics or whatever other means available.

    The short term future for Pakistan doesn't look very good. I'm convinced however that the above opinion will ultimately prevail in the end and that common sense will govern politics. Remember that we can only have peace when we all benefit from it and co-operate to maintain it.

  • Ritesh on April 22, 2009, 5:57 GMT

    This is a vry well written article. I feel sad for the Pakistani cricket fans. They are being robbed of their biggest passion. However, the situation in Pakistan right now is such that no international sporting event can be staged there. The Pakistani establishment should acknowledge this and take action rather than make illogical statements. The priority right now should be to flush out the taliban and other extremists and bring stability to the country. @ gul_khan Thanks for making an honest, dispassionate, and brave comment. It takes guts to speak the truth.

  • MOHAMED on April 21, 2009, 22:28 GMT

    The decision to ban International cricket in Pakistan, to my mind, is indeed sad, but, justified. Frankly, politics and religion in Pakistan have created an unstable situation, and after what happened to the Sri Lankans, the ICC did the right thing. I think that we may not see International cricket in Pakistan for a very long time, and rightly so. Sri Lanka and Bangladesh also have serious problems, and the ICC should look at these countries before scheduling International tours.


  • Tami on April 21, 2009, 19:18 GMT

    Very well written article. Logic and critical. I am amazed at how people are comparing India to Pakistan. My good beloved friends, with all due respect and honesty, we have to accept the fact that Pakistan and India cannot be compared. India is a safe country, the attack that took place in Mumbai were not targeted towards cricketers but what happened in Lahore were direct attacks intended to harm the Sri Lankan team. Even if ICC had not pulled out Pakistan from the list, I still think given people value their life because they have family I doubt anyone would have visited. It would have been Pakistan playing all alone.

    Pakistani Cricket board is on constant denial. I am amazed on how they are reacting to all this.

    Everyone is in titled to their opinion but please be logical and critical when you compare the ever so growing economical giant India to Pakistan.

    I am not Indian but I think Pakistan is far behind it all. But the move by ICC should be to move the WC to Australia/NZ.

  • Muthu on April 21, 2009, 10:12 GMT

    This is the right call made by ICC after long time. Any one with limited common sense will understand that Cricket in Pakistan is not possible in near future ( at least until next 3-5't years ). What we really don't understand is what some of these X-Pak cricketers are thinking? How come they expect someone to come and play in such high risk places. Whenever this explanation is given to them they will start relating the Mumbai Incident in India. We accept it happened, but they should also understand that everyone directly involved in that incident is captured either dead or alive. This shows why ICC or any test playing nation for that matter is different in its stand with respect touring the two nations. Its not just Money alone, security too is playing its role, please understand that atleast here after.

  • gul on April 20, 2009, 10:51 GMT

    its obvious many of the commentators to this article did not take osman's advice and take the emotion out of the topic. i'm a cricket mad pakistani but it would be ludicrous to think that the WC or any other form of high profile international sport could be held in pakistan for the forseeable future. the recent attacks were targeted at the cricketers; i'm sorry to say this, but if it was the pakistani cricketers who had come under direct attack, i feel some of the responses might be different. pakistan's problem is political and religious and being a non-secular society, they do intermingle. though pakistanis dont want to hear this, the nation was established in 1947 as a protectorate for muslims, but not a muslim/nonsecular state. it only became an islamic republic in 1972 and therein alot of the problems started. the govt, PCB, citizens etc need to take responsibilty and stop making outrageous and indefensible statements. squeeze the taliban/militants out, dont give them more land

  • Syed Muhammad on April 20, 2009, 7:39 GMT

    Pakistan is not failed, the incident may occur anywhere in the world even ICC has refused to give any authenticity, again we are not against Indians but why Indians are taking so much interest in this? Pakistan is the most peaceful country, Pakistanis are not involved in thess terrorist activities, these are invaders from Afghanistan who came from a poor country of Afghanistan, even one of Afghani has ruled India in past. With this ICC decision Cricket fans and cricket developments will face definite decline. Intrenational players come to play in your country and create heroism and youngsters get inspiration and then the talent came to the international arena. Pakistan is a sports loving nation and this momentum should go on. But ICC's decision hamper our developments in unifying nations like India and Pakistan who are absolutely no differences, they all are equal in nature, remember the territory of Pakistan once the part of India, then how may they differ in nature?

  • Syed Muhammad on April 20, 2009, 7:23 GMT

    Terrorism is a fear which is terrifying the world at large infact Sub-Continent to be specific, I am not against India, infact my Parents belongs to Uttar Pradesh but I born in Pakistan, and also like every citizen love my Country. I do not blame anybody but if you see the stats India itself is battling with 11 different movements and one cannot say where and when terrorist will atatck, if it is not in Pakistan then it should go outside the sub-continent as sub-continent is facing similar situation, why then IPL shifted to neutral venue? But the spirit of the game should remain there, Cricket is not a game in Pakistan it is a passion, which one may witness on the streets of pakistan where youngsters have their own style of playing, and the end result is Pakistan has produced all time greats like Hanif, Zaheer, Fazal Mahmood, Kardaar, Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Wasim, Waqar, Inzamam. We Pakistanis are sportsmen and like every sportsman we always never never give up

  • Dibbu on April 20, 2009, 3:28 GMT

    In reply to "bouncer3459," IPL was shifted out of India because of the General Elections in India where hundreds of millions of people are expected to vote. It is unrealistic, and would be criminal, to shift secuirty forces to host cricket matches. The government has to priortize things while dealing with such large scale operations. Second, on a more broad issue, all philosophy and idealism aside, if people of Pakistan really want to be taken seriously, then they have to rise agaisnt the voices that claim to represent them. There needs to be rise of moderate voices, and that cannot happen without accepting the ground realities. I agree with the author, people, administration, cricket board, politicians- everyone in Pakistan needs to take ownership and get out of the denial mode. There's an old saying afterall, you cannot change what you don't acknowledge.

  • Sharatchandra on April 19, 2009, 22:57 GMT

    I am appalled at the extremely emotional posturing of a lot of Pakistanis for this post. Looking at it from a rational standpoint and steering clear of cricket, Pakistan's law and order situation has been in the doldrums for the past couple of years. No team is ready to tour the country, and lest anyone forgets, even Bangladesh cancelled.

    I am a huge fan of Pakistani cricket for the passionate cricketers they produce but this emotional rhetoric and attitude has the ability to bury Pakistani cricket completely, which would be a tragedy. I would be happy to see Pakistan performing well in neutral venues and away tours, which would actually make the team stronger playing on seaming pitches.

    Lest anyone forgets, Javed Miandad's son is married to Dawood Ibrahim's daughter, and until this unholy nexus between cricket and the underworld ceases in Pakistan, there will be no way anyone will tour the country. I wish Pakistan he best and hope things return to normal very soon.

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