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March 4, 2009
Younis Khan has appealed to cricket's administrators to save the game in Pakistan, or risk pushing future generations into the clutches of terrorists. The Pakistan captain fears that an extended boycott by touring teams could lead to a dramatic decline in interest and participation in cricket among the nation's youth. That, in turn, could invite corrupting influences to fill the void that might otherwise have been occupied by sport, Younis argued.
"Our future as a nation is in our youngsters' hands," Younis told Cricinfo. "Sport helps to make good human beings. If the sport is not there, the children can do silly things. We have to be very careful about that. Nobody wants to see children going down a bad path and finding themselves involved with bombs and things like that. We all must do something to stop that happening.
"Maybe in the future we will be alone [as a cricketing nation] and that would be very sad, especially for the youngsters. When I was a boy, I loved watching Imran Khan, Javed Miandad and Wasim Akram playing against great teams from overseas. It is because of them - seeing them play - that I also played the game. But what if no one comes to Pakistan? How will the youngsters know about the game? What will they do?
"I appeal for all the bosses and the ICC not let cricket die here. They must think about all the factors, including what will become of the youngsters of Pakistan. It would be very easy right now for the ICC and the bosses to say there will be no cricket in Pakistan. But the future will not be good if cricket is taken away from my country."
Younis, and his entire team, remain shocked and saddened at the attack on the Sri Lankan team and ICC officials in the shadows of the Gaddafi Stadium. He was just six days removed from completing a career-best innings of 313 - the third-highest total recorded by a Pakistani batsman in the team's 57-year history - and had been buoyant at the prospect of again locking horns with Sri Lanka on a more sporting Lahore pitch.
But in 30 terrifying minutes on Tuesday, everything changed. The attack on the Sri Lankan and ICC buses, which left eight security and transportation personnel dead, will almost certainly ensure a blanket boycott by touring teams for the foreseeable future, and force the Pakistani team into a nomadic existence.
|Our future as a nation is in our youngsters' hands. Sport helps to make good human beings. If the sport is not there, the children can do silly things - Younis Khan issues a warning about Pakistan's future|
Younis expressed concern that, should Pakistan be denied the opportunity of hosting matches in the long-term, players could abandon the national team in search of career opportunities in Indian Twenty20 leagues or county cricket.
"I have seen a lot in my career," he said. "At the last World Cup, Bob Woolmer died and that was a terrible thing. Then, just after I had been made the captain, we have this shocking attack. This is a very bad time in Pakistan. It feels that every day we go backwards, not forwards. We have not experienced anything like this before.
"If something is not done quickly, maybe everyone goes to the IPL, ICL or county cricket. I hope that does not happen. It is up to the ICC and the bosses from around the world to make sure that cricket is not lost in Pakistan because of a couple of mad people. It is not the sportsmen's fault.
"I met with the Sri Lankan team before they flew home and had dinner with them. They were very sad about what was happening to cricket. Cricket is suffering. Sport is one of the only things that brings countries closer and now, because of a few idiots - people who use guns and bombs are not human - no one might come here and we could be all alone."
Younis pledged his loyalty to the Pakistan team for the entirety of his career, but admitted to sadness at the prospect of leading his country in neutral venues - possibly England, which has emerged as a potential host on account of a large ex-pat Pakistani community.
"I will stand by this team," he said. "I love my team and my nation. I have played the last ten years for Pakistan, and I probably have another three or four to go. I want to give those years to the Pakistan team.
"I would love to play Australia in Pakistan, but that is difficult. It will be a new experience for me as captain leading my team in a home game against Australia in England. I will look at it two ways - I will be sad because my home series is in England, but also excited to play on the good pitches of England against a very good Australian team.
"The Pakistani nation loves sports, and especially cricket. The crowds are big everywhere. They love coming to see all the great teams from England, Australia, India, Sri Lanka. The problem had already started with Australia and India not playing here, but now it is much worse, and we don't know if anyone will come here to play us."
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Plays of the day from the CLT20 game between Kolkata Knight Riders and Chennai Super Kings