Updated: September 22, 2021 9:43:04 am
It was supposedly the last step in Pakistan’s long and arduous road to bringing cricket back home. After a decade in wilderness, post the attack on Sri Lanka’s team bus by terrorists in Lahore in March 2009, Pakistan was being incrementally reintegrated into the touring schedule. It has hosted West Indies, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, besides the elite players of world cricket in the popular Pakistan Super League in the last two years. The fear and reluctance of touring the country were gradually receding, and hosting New Zealand and England, in the next couple of months, was the logical and final step in declaring to the sporting world that Pakistan is safe to tour. But the cancellation of both tours, have sucker-punched their dreams and ambitions to be once again a vibrant, colourful cricket host.
New Zealand’s reluctance, citing “specific, credible security threat” against the team, is more reasonable, and hence acceptable, than that of England. Only a fortnight ago an ISIS sympathiser randomly stabbed six people at a supermarket in Auckland. In the past, their cricketers have endured close shaves, twice in Colombo at the peak of Lankan civil war and once in Karachi, after an explosion outside their hotel. But England’s excuses in cancelling the trip, chiefly “the mental and physical well-being of our players”, “increasing concerns about travelling to the region” and “bubble fatigue”, reeked of panic and pretence.
The boards of New Zealand and England, perhaps the ICC too, might compensate Pakistan’s logistical loss, but not the damage it has inflicted on a sparkling cricket culture, as deep and diverse, as joyous and frenzied as India’s. The cricket-mad country will have to be content with PSL and visits of low-rung nations, even those could be limited in the aftermath of the pullouts, and their best cricketers would be forced to consider someone else’s home their home again. That last step on Pakistan’s redemption road now looks longer and more arduous than ever before.
This editoral first appeared in the print edition on September 22, 2021 under the title ‘Lost pitch’.