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Wednesday October 27, 2021

Politics of cricket

September 23, 2021

The England Cricket Board has done a huge disservice to international cricket in general and to Pakistan in particular by pulling out of a tour scheduled to bring both its men and women's teams to Pakistan. The decision came days after the New Zealand cricket team rapidly departed from the country, citing a security threat but not giving any specifics regarding said threat. The decision by the ECB and the Wales Cricket Board has been strongly criticised by England's own sports journalists, who have deemed it cowardly and called it part of the ECB bowing down to player power. This is also a reference to the IPL and to the manner in which cricket has become organised into blocs round the world, with mostly Western countries holding the most power and using it against others when they choose to do so. The tired and lazy excuse trotted out by the ECB only makes things worse.

This problem has also been mentioned by Pakistan's PCB Chairman Rameez Raja, in his comments following a decision by the England team not to tour. Rameez Raja, who has just taken over his new post, obviously faces an extremely difficult situation. However, he also needs to handle the matter rationally and calmly as a sportsman, without delving too deep into politics, or suggesting that rival blocs could be set up. A mature, calm, dignified front at the moment would be the most sensible approach. Meanwhile, Pakistan's government is justifiably upset at the decision taken by both the New Zealand and England cricket boards. On Wednesday, government ministers Fawad Chaudhry and Sheikh Rasheed spoke with the media about the cancellation of the tour and said that there is evidence that Indian-origin accounts online were responsible for the apparent security threat to New Zealand. This is not a small issue and it is imperative that Pakistan take the matter to the ICC. If there is indeed a deliberate effort to stop countries from visiting Pakistan for sports, then it is vital it be taken up by the top bodies in the sport and brought to the limelight so it can be fully investigated.

At the moment, our thoughts are mostly with Pakistan's cricketers, and also fans of the sport. Captain Babar Azam has expressed anger over the decision by New Zealand and England. His frustration is understandable, as is that of other players in our team. Pakistan has suffered far too many years without international cricket on home ground and this is a huge blow to a team that has been looking forward to the warmth and electricity of playing at home and hosting other teams. This is nothing short of a tragedy for the sport, and a huge blow to the success of many cricketers who aspire to reach the top. Surely, cricket think tanks across the cricketing world must realise that and empathise with a team that has some brilliant players. There are no winners when such arbitrary decisions are taken without even the offer of an explanation.