May 10, 2009

All emotion, no logic

Why the PCB's move to press charges against the ICC for the loss of the World Cup is misguided

The emotion behind the PCB's decision to send a legal notice to the ICC over the 2011 World Cup decision is understandable. The board, the whole country, feels isolated, victimised and targeted. Two major tournaments have been taken away from them, countries have not toured them in better times and are now unlikely to tour for some time. Those the board once thought were friends within the Asian bloc have, in their minds, not helped them. Instead, they have pushed them further to the margins.

The process to exclude Pakistan, it also emerges, was not without considerable flaw. Any such decision is usually to be taken by the commercial arm of the ICC, the IDI board. That was not the case here. The subject was not on the agenda at the April meeting, and the PCB was seemingly caught unaware. Not as unaware and unprepared as it should have been, however: the ICC had, in February, asked the 2011 World Cup co-hosts to think of alternative venues should the situation worsen. After the Lahore attack, when everything changed, the PCB should not just have been thinking about such advice, it should've been acting on it.

The Lahore attack, and its implications, were on the agenda of the meet. One implication was clearly the World Cup and Pakistan's place in it: would it not have made sense to have a plan at the ready to present? A proposal for Abu Dhabi and Dubai to "host" Pakistan's matches was said by PCB officials to be on the cards - after the decision was taken. Apparently such a proposal wasn't tabled at all, perhaps because board officials balked at the possible expense involved in any such move.

Still, ostensibly, Pakistan feels humiliated, short-changed. A bullish, emotional response is inevitable, especially if there is a valid sense that legally a decision can be challenged. Some face also needs to be saved domestically. The problem, however, is just that: that the response is an emotional one, not one driven by cold-hearted logic.

Had it been, perhaps the board might have realized that even if the decision is referred to the rightful organ, which somehow finds that Pakistan should remain a host, no country can be forced to play here. Amazingly, the board still doesn't seem to have grasped the gravity of what happened in Lahore and how things have since changed. An international cricket team was targeted by terrorists, who eventually got away. No amount of legalese will convince cricketers to visit after that. They were unwilling before the attacks, as the Champions Trophy decision attests. How can their resolve to not tour Pakistan not have been strengthened now that the government and the board have failed to provide the kind of security that was needed - even if nobody really knows what kind of security measures will suffice against such barbarism? That is the bottom line.

Better it might be for the board to just move on; better than a legal notice might be a demand for a review; better it might be to try and repair a faltering relationship with the ICC and its members; better it might be for the PCB to remember the mantra of world politics, that there are no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests

And if the Middle East as a surrogate host is an option, then the PCB has not yet made it official. Thus, a legal battle appears futile. Potentially, for a cash-strapped board, it will hurt, for lawyers come as cheap as Hollywood stars.

There is also an unsavory sense - emanating from the core of those behind this move - that Pakistan will push for the entire subcontinent to also lose out. If Pakistan is not reinstated for 2011, the board seems to be saying, then the subcontinent should host the 2015 World Cup and not this one. The PCB's statement, trying to bring in the troubles in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, confirms it.

It comes across as a tasteless, anticipatory schadenfreude, taking pleasure from the potential misfortunes of others in the hope of lessening your own gloom. Whatever the situation in these countries, no team has yet been attacked there and that makes all the difference. And how easy will it be to convince those very countries whose hosting rights you are trying to derail for 2011, to cooperate with you for 2015? Do these lines even have to be written to spell this out?

In the longer and broader term, logic says such a stance is disastrous, for confrontation will alienate Pakistan further. As it is, the present PCB administration is not about to write the sequel to How to Win Friends and Influence People. Their reputation within and with the ICC - it is reliably learnt - is as low as it has ever been.

Better it might be for the board to just move on; better than a legal notice might be a demand for a review, having tried to garner some support or have some firm alternative in place; better it might be to try and repair a faltering relationship with the ICC and members; better it might be for the PCB to remember the mantra of world politics, that there are no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests; finally, better it might be to use - and not squander - some of the genuine sympathy out there for Pakistan's plight more constructively.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ravi on May 12, 2009, 16:57 GMT

    1) I am assuming they want to relly on walkaway points to get to World cup Semi final and Final 2) I am sure even Bangladesh will not play in Pak with present conditions and one way Sri Lanka taught a lesson to the world by ignoring India 3) Pak should have decided earlier whether they need cricket or terror, They ignored their big brother and world and opted for terror 4) They should play domestic cricket for sometime like what SA did in the past to get back to regular track after a decade (if things get better)

  • Faisal on May 12, 2009, 16:53 GMT

    I fully support PCB's decision to go to arbitration, logic or no logic, it is a right that PCB should use regardless of the result. Why people are saying to stay silent and take this decision as if the PCB is servant to ICC. ICC is blindly following where the money is, if it was in Pakistan they would have gone for it. Whether countries want to tour Pak or not, the manner in which this decision is taken is worng, "the notion is, either you are on the bus or under the bus". PCB kept quiet at the time becuse they were not prepared or expected that such decisin would be taken in so much haste. After regrouping PCB bigwigs decided to take the best route to voice thier ocncern. Oman Samiuddin should be asked, if the boss takes away his job without giving him notice whether it was his fault or not, what would he do, would he take it silently, or go a legal route, if he would feel as a victim. If Pakistanis will not support Pakistan, then who else would Indians???

  • Syed on May 12, 2009, 16:52 GMT

    I understand the concern shown by ICC as to the safety of players in Pakistan, but who would ensure safety of Pakistani players in India.I hope we have not forgotten the treatment that the Pakistani cricket team got in Bombay by Shiv Sena and very recently the treatment dished out to Pakistani Artist and media men.The Indian government has acknowledged that it Intelligence and security failed during Bombay episode( inspite of the fact that it had advance information), how can one be assured that it can't fail again.

  • Vidyadhar on May 12, 2009, 16:44 GMT

    It is time all of us realize that Pakistan and India are different countries and as such cannot be compared anymore. This hyphenated way of thinking is dangerous. This is a childish rivalry that says" What India has I want to have or vice versa" is not possible.

    When the people grow up and accept each other as independent countries and understand regardless of religion and internal politics, whatever Pakistan is facing is its problem. What India is facing is its problem.

    What I feel is while we are different nations, we still carry the baggage of history and culture to such an extent, that we cannot live with each other or live away from each other without comparisons.

  • kazi on May 12, 2009, 16:36 GMT

    i missed a vital point which i want to point out. is it not that the security for the sri Lankan team fled when the terrorists attacked them? so what guarantee do we have that the Pakistani security is strong enough? Mr Osman is right. PCB is fighting out of shame and fighting with their heart and not brain. God forbid, if there were any casualties in the Lahore attack, i do not think PCB would have the face to show in general public ever again. this is pathetic from PCB.

  • kazi on May 12, 2009, 16:28 GMT

    one more thing, Pakistan should be bold enough to accept that their security failed to protect the Sri Lankan players and accept the decision of ICC. The more they will drag this, it will only get nasty and even if they do manage to get to host the tournament there will be lot of walk over which I am afraid will dent the tournament.

  • kazi on May 12, 2009, 16:26 GMT

    to all the people who wants the world cup still to be held in Pakistan, I have one question to ask. If such attack like Lahore happens during the tournament, who will be responsible? God forbid, if there are any casualties then who is going to answer? My believe is that if teams like Australia, New Zealand and England have matches in Pakistan, I doubt whether they will play or not just like 1996 world cup where Sri Lanka got walk over. To all those people who thinks Pakistan should host the world cup all I got to say is, think broadly, think of the security of the players and do not just think of your chances of watching the matches if Pakistan host the tournament. This is not a country tour, its the biggest tournament of the sports and God forbid if anything happens mid tournament then where will those matches be shifted, will the players be flown to South Africa just like the IPL?

  • Mohammad on May 12, 2009, 16:10 GMT

    ICC should have given time to Pakistan to see how the situation would pan out in the future. In Germany, after 2 years Munich 1972 incident happened, Germany hosted 1974 soccer world cup and that is by far much bigger event than cricket world cup. No body should jump the gun and make a decision so soon. But I understand the insatiable hunger of Indian board to make money so they influenced this decision

  • F on May 12, 2009, 15:39 GMT

    You have articulated the situation in a very fair manner. Thanks for sharing your views. As its obvious from the comments, people will disagree on whether the PCB's actions are reasonable or not, but I think a valid question we should be asking ourselves is whether this action will help Pakistan cricket in some tangible manner or help its image as an organization. I think the answering is an overwhelming NO! This is just pure posturing by PCB.

  • athar on May 12, 2009, 15:04 GMT

    Although, I agree that what happened in Lahore was a disaster of major proportion, as it was in Munich Olympics 1972, I do not recall that Olympics were moved from Germany and games cancelled or moved altogather. If we give in to to terrorists meekly then it surely confirms that terrorism succeeds. Pakistan needs to get it's act togather and prove to the world that it has learned from it's Police's shocking, if not criminal, shortcomings and produce a security plan which satisfies powers that may be. Major disaster do happen every now and then but running away is done by cowards. Bombay carnage comes to mind. There is still plenty of time left to formulate a foolproof security plan,overseen by ICC and Players Unions. Let's not give in to terrorists!

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