If one can remember one significant message that was being protruded right through the Sri Lanka-Pakistan series until it was brutally gunned down by some blind faithed misfits, was the planned centenary celebrations for cricket that was being organised by the ICC. The slogan of the celebrations was called “The sprit of the game”.
At the beginning the game of cricket’s real internationals were played between only the likes of England, Australia and South Africa (when South Africa was adopting the apartheid policies). This was the status-quo in cricket till the First World War and then in the post war period, the West Indies, India and New Zealand and Pakistan were taken into its fold.
Though Sri Lanka has a history of cricket that runs well over a hundred years, the West only agreed to take them onto their same level as a full member in 1981 and that is also after they had blunted a few big wigs with their elegant willow wielding. A few years later Bangladesh also was made a full member.
However, little did they know that the four countries namely India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh were to be graduated as the powerhouse of cricket, through sheer numbers of its audience and the revenue it collected through the game that counted approximately to around 75% of the global income of cricket.
The reason out of the four nations, three of them respectively India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka won the Cricket World Cup while some of the original members are still dreaming to do so. Out of the original members of the club Australia has won the World Cup while the West Indies comes as the other nation. So with the new found clout, Cricket in the sub-continent became more vibrant than the rest of the cricketing world. At the same time another factor that went for the sub-continent was its brotherhood and collective stands that made them one-voice in the forums that mattered. Then rather reluctantly the rest of the cricketing World accepted it. Nevertheless the latter never wanted to relinquish the authority they wielded for the best part of the century.
Then came the sad part of the episode. Sri Lanka became the first country that was hit by the blight of terrorism in the region. They were compounded by this problem from their very infancy in Test cricket and thirty years on the road with the blight Sri Lanka seem to have developed their own antidotes to it.
At the Western end of the Indian sub-continent, Pakistan’s love-hate episode with the Taliban and the other allied destructive forces that have billed along with it for the past two decades has turned into a real menace especially in the past five years and so far it has devoured some of their political leaders which has culminated with the shooting of the Lankan cricketers and with the future of their international sports within the country for the foreseen future.
In spite of losing one of its political leaders in 1991 through the same blight the gloom of real terrorism was experienced in India only last November with the Mumbai terror attacks that plunged the entire sub-continent into a political quagmire.
Then came the post incident pointing of fingers resulting in the cancellation of the India FTP tour of Pakistan.
In Sri Lanka too in that period cricket administration-wise there was an anti Indian mood and the moment there was a call from Pakistan, well knowing the prevailing situation in the region Sri Lanka accepted the tour, only to be endorsed by the hierarchy for all the reasons other than the game of cricket.
Now what has happened cannot be unwound in any way. Sport in the entire region is in real peril at present and the only question that needs an answer is – “Where are we heading and how to get back on the road?”
Right now that one-voice that was a few years ago is being sung in different pitches and the result has become like the proverbial loosen the pack of sticks and you can break them one by one.
On the peripheries the vultures are looming around as the cricketing giant is gasping for breath. From Australia already James Sutherland has made an announcement to the effect that they are ready to take over the 2011 World Cup which was scheduled to be hosted by the sub-continent neighbours. New Zealand obviously has cancelled their tour of Pakistan which was scheduled for later this year. The tennis authorities have already cancelled a junior ranking tournament that was to be held in Pakistan. Certainly there is a threat of sports losing its grip in the entire region. Adding insult to injury the Bangladeshi government has postponed the hosting of Pakistan. The tour was to begin on March 10.
There is no time to cock-up your fingers and hoarsely screaming ‘you’re at fault’, because it is not going to take one anywhere. The time is ripe to work in unison and seek what could be done to bring a conducive situation for sport in the entire region.
At present there is a worm eating us up well within while there are vultures circling overhead to devour whatever is remaining.
In Sri Lanka added to the woes cricket is still running headless, with CEO Duleep Mendis functioning like a multifaceted robot, but, still going nowhere. So much so during the Pakistan tour especially when this incident occurred, team manager Brendan Kuruppu became a helpless man. Generally if there was a functional hierarchy there would have been some one of authority on the spot who could take a decision and at the same time understand the intricacies of cricket and not politics.
The only redeeming factor for sports in the region is the IPL where over 120 international cricketers are billed to converge on that huge land mass called India and if they could go on without a hiccup they would heave a big sigh of relief. But, at the same time developments other than cricket have come in as a drawback and that too now that the IPL is in the balance. Anyone with a head above his shoulders would know that unity among the neighbours would be the best antidote to this predicament that we are facing, but arriving at that point will take some time as obstacles will have to be overcome. But, still it would be worth it just for the future of sports in the region.
Just see how one-man’s moment of vindictiveness brought upon a disaster that plunged the entire continent into uncertainty.