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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cricket returns to Pak ~ not yet time for Indo-Pak games !!

In IPL yesterday, Mumbai Indians beat Chennai Super Kings by 25 runs to enter the finals  of the 8th edition.  Batting first, MI scored a 187 for six in 20 overs with Lendl Simmons top-scoring with 65 off 51 balls with three fours and five sixes. The opening partnership of Simmons and Parthiv Patel prospered and it appeared that 200 was easy.  Kieron Pollard smashed 41 off only 17 balls with five sixes and a boundary as Dwayne Bravo who bowled a big last over,  took 3 for 40 from 4 overs.  CSK were not exactly on target, lost wickets regularly and eventually were all out for 162 in 19 overs.

A few years ago, in Mar 2009,  on a  dark day for Cricket occurred; at Gadaffi stadium, Thilan Samaraweera notched  up his second successive Test double century following his 231 in the First Test at Karachi.  Thilan became the  sixth batsman after Walter Hammond, Don Bradman, Vinod Kambli, Kumar Sangakkara and Graeme Smith to score successive double centuries in Test matches.  Then the next day, unidentified gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying Sri Lankan cricket team as they were on their way to stadium in Lahore.  Dawn news channel showed footage of two gunmen opening fire using Kalashnikovs.  six policemen  were  dead, three more are seriously injured. The attackers exploded two bombs and men started firing at a police van which was providing security to the Lankan team.   Some players sustained injuries.  The players later left from the stadium by helicopter – that sounded a death-knell for Cricket in Pakistan – though Abu dhabi offered its premises for matches involving Pak later. 

After a six year hiatus, Cricket returns to Pak as Zimbabwe's cricket team is touring  Pakistan, the first Test-playing nation to visit the country in six years.  It is reported that thousands of security personnel were deployed as the team were taken from Lahore airport to a city hotel. Pakistan has hosted no top-level international cricket since Sri Lanka's team bus was attacked by gunmen in Lahore in 2009. Six policemen died. Zimbabwe and Pakistan will play two T20 matches and three one-day internationals starting on Friday. Pakistan have named two uncapped players for the T20 games - all-rounder Imad Wasim, who was born in Swansea, Wales, and opener Nauman Anwar.  Television channels offered live coverage of the arrival of the Zimbabweans - most playing famous Bollywood songs about the "home coming of the beloved" in the background. The tickets for the first match T20 reportedly has been ‘ sold out ’ !

Meantime, the International Cricket Council [ICC] has refused to send any match officials to Pakistan for the series with Zimbabwe because of security concerns. The ICC said it decided in April that the mandatory requirement of neutral umpires for international matches would be waived due to security conditions in Pakistan should the series go ahead.

The Zimbabwean visit is being seen as a major test as the country seeks to end its sporting isolation. According to BBC, thousands have been killed in recent years in Pakistan's militant violence, which continues to rage despite a military offensive in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. A sectarian bus massacre in Karachi last week highlighted the security risks.

Back home, there is no Pak player in IPL -  Pakistani players would only be able to play in the Indian Premier League once bilateral cricket ties with India were restored on a permanent basis, according to a Pakistan Cricket Board official, PTI reported. As a norm, every time  a bilateral series planned it is normal for both boards to first get clearance from the Government.   The political relationship has not changed and perhaps it is still  time not  ripe for including Pakistan players in IPL franchisees.  The  Pak players did themselves nothing good by making some anti-rhetoric immediately after they were neglected…… but when it is so – what is the rhyme and reason in having Pak in commentary box and in the middle…. You have  Pak umpires in the middle  – Ramiz Raja commenting; Wasim Akram providing expert tips - …….. do you see any logic in that ?

It is quite a queer coincidence that on a day when reports were doing the rounds of India and Pakistan agreeing to play a cricket series in UAE in December this year, yet another dastardly terror attack took place against Indian interests in Afghanistan around the same time. No prizes for guessing identity of the real perpetrators as Pakistan has been known to have choreographed a wave of similar terror attacks in Afghanistan, reports First Post.

In Afghanistan, a suicide bombing attack near Kabul's international airport occurred on 17th May 2015.  Four Indians including a woman and one American were among 14 people killed after gunmen stormed a guest house in Kabul where a party of foreigners was going on. Indian ambassador in Afghanistan Amar Sinha was the real target of this attack but he escaped as he decided at the eleventh hour to skip the party where he was a prominent invitee. At least twelve people were injured and 54 hostages were rescued as Afghan special forces retook the guest house, situated close to a UN office and a diplomatic compound, in an operation that took several hours in clearing the building room by room. The bloodiest terror attack on Indian interests in Afghanistan took place in July  2008 when a suicide car bomb attack was launched near the gates of Indian embassy in Kabul, killing 58 people, including Indian defence attache Brigadier Ravi Datt Mehta and Indian diplomat V Venkateswara Rao. Besides two ITBP officers, Ajai Pathania and Roop Singh, were among the four Indians killed in the attack.

A New York Times report had then quoted US intelligence officials as suggesting that the ISI had planned the attack, though Pakistan refuted the claim. A report in The Sunday Times had said that then US president George W Bush confronted Pakistani prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and stated that in the case of another such attack he would have to take "serious action".  American intelligence agencies have time and again suggested that Pakistan’s ISI was behind many of the attacks. But no action has been taken by the Obama administration on the ground to declare Pakistan a ‘Terror State’ or a ‘Failed State’ or a ‘Rogue State’. WikiLeaks had named Pakistan’s ISI as a terrorist organization. In 2010 Pentagon had acknowledged that some elements in Pakistan’s ISI were cooperating with terrorist groups to counter US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Indian interests in Afghanistan have repeatedly been hit by terrorists, mostly inspired by Pakistan-aided terror outfits. Pakistani state and non-state actors are repeatedly targeting Indian interests in Afghanistan to demoralise Indian government from carrying out developmental work in Afghanistan. These are bound to continue as long as Pakistan is going to act as a safe haven to anti-India elements like Hafiz Saeed, Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi and continues to harbour India’s most wanted like Dawood Ibrahim.

Pakistan talks of ‘talks’ on the one hand and sponsors such attacks on the other. It should be that ‘terror and cricket or any other game for that matter’ cannot go together – there is no point in playing when bi-lateral relations are good. Cricket should take the back seat, Nation is the priority.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

20th May 2015.

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