Chance goes abegging
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So how does a country where a visiting team was shot at point-blank range, convince the rest of the world to return for a game of cricket? Ever? It's been three-and-a-half years now since terrorists ambushed a bus carrying the Sri Lankan team to the erstwhile Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. Three-and-a-half years since Pakistan has been termed a no-go zone for world cricket. Three-and-a-half-years since cricket fans in Pakistan witnessed an international cricket match.
Over the weekend, they did get a teaser of what they've been missing out on as a bunch of former international cricketers — led by Sanath Jayasuriya — faced a Pakistan All Star XI, including Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Malik, in two T20 games in Karachi. The tournament though was organized and conducted by a private body with the logistics arranged by Sindh sports minister Dr Mohammad Ali Shah. Thanks to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) disassociating itself from the event by refusing an official sanction.
Here was a tremendous public-relations opportunity for the PCB. An opportunity to attract the world's gaze. A platform for guaranteeing safety to visiting teams. But PCB let it slip.
To the PCB's credit, they did 'support' the tournament by providing no-objection certificates to their contracted players, Afridi and Malik, and the National Stadium in Karachi as a host venue. But was it enough? Couldn't they have embraced the tournament as their own and made a louder statement about their willingness to welcome the cricketing world onto their backyard again? That could have even meant having Brian Lara — who refused to tour without an official sanction — in action.
Though the matches proved to be one-sided in the hosts' favour, they were not surprisingly witnessed by jam-packed audiences. It will obviously never be easy for the PCB to convince the other boards about letting their teams to venture into Pakistan without the slightest skepticism after the atrocities in Lahore. Throwing their weight behind a venture like the International XI's tour though might have equipped the PCB with an optimistic base to work with.
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