What fears do Bangladesh cricket authorities have now that other Test-playing teams are visiting Pakistan?
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and fans are in confusion about Bangladesh cricket team’s tour to Pakistan. Bangladesh are scheduled to tour Pakistan in January and February for two matches of the World Test Championship. The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) has stated it was willing to play the T20I series in Pakistan and the Tests at a neutral venue, but PCB has taken a firm stand against shifting playing Pakistan’s home games at neutral venues any more.
Veteran wicket-keeper batsman Mushfiqur Rahim is not willing to tour Pakistan. Some other players also want a short tour like T20I series. It is surprising because only last month Sri Lanka completed a tour to Pakistan safely.
After the series, Sri Lankan captain Dimuth Karunaratne called the security for the two-Test series “200 per cent” and promised to return. He was satisfied with the security measures by Pakistan’s authorities. “They (security personnel) were like fathers for us. They kept talking to us and they were right behind us every time,” he told reporters. “What I can say is that it’s really safe here and that all the other countries playing cricket can come and play Tests, T20s or ODIs,” the Sri Lankan skipper said.
Former skipper Angelo Matthews also praised Pakistan’s security forces. In a Twitter message, he thanked the people of Pakistan for the “great hospitality” and the law enforcement agencies for the excellent security.
West Indies master blaster Chris Gayle has also called Pakistan as “one of the safest places right now in the world”.
Gayle, who is currently playing for Chattogram Challengers in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), cited the “presidential-level security” provided to the visiting players in the country as one of the reasons for his view.
Before refusing to tour Pakistan, Bangladesh cricketers must remember that in July 2016, a group of gunmen attacked a restaurant in a high-security zone in Dhaka, killing policemen and civilians, mostly foreigners. After the attack, England’s limited-overs captain Eoin Morgan showed his concerns about the tour to Bangladesh in October and said that neutral venues would be preferable.
But then BCB’s Chief Executive Nizamuddin Chowdhury categorically rejected any talk of playing England at a neutral venue. If Bangladesh board can take such a strong stand and refuse to play at a neutral venue against England, why are they hesitant to play in Pakistan when it is safer here than in their country? Terrorism is not an issue in Pakistan only. Terrorism incidents can happen anywhere in the world and have happened in such countries where none could have expected such as New Zealand and Norway.
There has been countrywide agitation in India for about one month. Many have been killed, hundreds injured and thousands arrested, but Sri Lanka have just played a series there and Australia are going there without showing any concerns.
Terror attacks have happened in America and Europe, but major international sports events continue to be organised there and all participating teams visit these places without any hesitation.
Even after a bomb blast in Manchester just a week before the ICC Champions Trophy 2017, in which around 22 people were killed, no team even talked about not playing there.
After the 2008 Mumbai attacks, some of the English players were unwilling to return for the Test series in India, but the BCCI officials requested England team to come back to India for the Test series, saying that otherwise terrorism would win. The Indian media and former cricketers argued that England should play in India and not allow the terrorists to succeed in spreading fear, despite reports that terrorists were attacking mainly British and American citizens.
But when the Indian government chose not to send the team to Pakistan, the Indian media and these same players supported their government.
In 1991, Shiv Sena’s activists damaged the Wankhede Stadium’s pitch two days before Pakistan’s ODI series in India. Pakistan not only continued their tour but did not even ask to change the venue.
In 1999 again when Pakistan were going to tour India, Hindu militants dug up Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium pitch. But Pakistan still played there. If Pakistan could continue their tour why are other teams hesitant to come to Pakistan?
Australia continued their tour of England in 2005 even after the 7/7 bomb blasts, which left 52 dead and around 700 wounded.
Last month, the PCB and Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) jointly announced that a MCC cricket team led by former Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara would visit Pakistan for a series.
There is also a strong possibility of a tour by the South Africa cricket team near the end of March for three T20Is.
Therefore, the PCB should stick to its stance of not playing the home series abroad. The ICC should also play its role to make BCB send its team to Pakistan for the scheduled two Tests.
If Bangladesh cricket team postponed its tour, it would open the door for other major teams to refuse to play in Pakistan. If Bangladesh played one Test as they have suggested, it would not be considered part of the World Test Championship, according to its rules.