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What We Remember

The Lahore attack

When an international team came under terrorist fire, plunging Pakistan cricket into the wilderness for close to a decade

Osman Samiuddin
Osman Samiuddin
With the benefit of nearly a decade's worth of hindsight, the question about the Lahore attack is not how it could have happened but rather, how it didn't happen earlier than March 3, 2009.
Pakistan, and Pakistan cricket, was a mess after all. The numbers of terrorist attacks were rising and no city, no institution, had been spared. There seemed no feasible way to protect citizens from suicide attacks. The game's administration in the country was enduring one of its more incompetent ebbs and there seemed no way to stop cricket going the way Pakistan was headed. Tours had been cancelled the previous year because of the fear of attacks; the 2008 Champions Trophy had been postponed and moved away from Lahore. Something just had to give, and that Tuesday morning it finally did.
Cricketers had been caught in the crossfire of terrorism before - most notably New Zealand who were in Sri Lanka in 1987 and 1993, when suicide attacks in their vicinity forced the abandonment of one tour and the curtailment of the other. And, remarkably, New Zealand were in the Karachi hotel that was the target of a suicide attack in 2002, forcing the abandonment of that tour. The difference is that they weren't the targets on any of these occasions, as the Sri Lankans were in 2009 - as was cricket.
The primary aim of that wave of terrorism was to cut Pakistan off from the world, to isolate it; cricket was one of the few activities still left through which Pakistan did interact with the world. To a degree the terrorists succeeded, as teams stopped touring the country, an exclamation mark to a decade of dwindling visitors to Pakistan since 9/11. And at the time it seemed impossible that cricket would ever return.
But look around now, at the steady trickle that is the return of the game to the country: a tour by Zimbabwe, a PSL final, an international XI visit, and now, more PSL games and another Full Member visit. Look at Pakistan continuing to confound on the field and log the continuing support for the game in the country. Terrorists and their aims have not quite been defeated yet, but neither has Pakistan cricket.

Osman Samiuddin is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo