30 Days, 30 Questions: Should cricket resume on Pakistani soil?

Is Pakistan safe to host international cricket matches. Or, are players justified in staying away?

Today in 30 days, 30 questions

Question: Is Pakistan safe enough for international cricket to resume in the country?

Sr Lanka players are whisked away from Gaddafi Stadium after the 2009 attack.

The concept of home and away contests imparts to sport a facet the fulfillment of whose both ends remains the ultimate challenge for a modern side. Monsters at home, midgets abroad is a tag that has often tailed some teams. Well, at least most outfits have gained considerably from regular series on their own turf - on their own terms and in their own  conditions -  and given fans a chance to root for their heroes at stadia across the homeland.

Now consider Pakistan. Serious lapses in security which resulted in the attack on Sri Lanka’s touring party outside the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore in 2009 necessitated a cessation of international fixtures on Pakistani soil. And rightly so! After all, the primary obligation on the part of the host, as it undertakes a bilateral exercise, is to ensure the well-being of the guests.  The implications of this ban were several. Pakistan were disallowed from fulfilling their right to co-host the 2011 ICC World Cup and were at the receiving end of more cancellations when New Zealand (in 2009) and Bangladesh (more recently) decided to call off their tours.

Pakistan has since looked at UAE to host their ‘home’ series, which cannot possibly be the same as playing in one’s own country. While Pakistan having to make do without any pragmatic advantage in their UAE-hosted fixtures is lamentable, it has to be viewed against the grave reason behind the stoppage of international scheduling in the country. Before the attack on Sri Lanka, India and Australia had often cited threats to security as grounds for their disinclination to tour Pakistan. With India, the souring of cricket ties with Pakistan draws and derives from their putrid political exchanges – exchanges that reached a snapping point after the 2008 Mumbai attacks and are tautened further each time allegations of cross-border terrorism raise their ugly head.

The powers that be in Pakistan – the Government and Cricket Board – have repeatedly and unsuccessfully attempted a thawing of perception. The country, they maintain, is safe for resumption of cricket. But until Pakistan regains its place in the international calendar, the loss is the fans’. The question remains: Is Pakistan safe to host international cricket matches. Or, are players justified in staying away? Better safe and alive than righteous and dead - what say?

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