Uncertainty shrouds subcontinent cricket

If no international cricket is played in Pakistan, the youth would lose interest in the game. They could then move towards guns and bombs

By Akash Bisht Delhi, Hardnews

The attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore has cast a dark shadow on the future of cricket in Pakistan. But, fingers are also being raised over the security arrangements for international players and teams in India. No team would be willing to travel to the sub-continent for cricket from now on. This heinous attack on cricketers also puts a question mark on the future of the World Cup 2011 that was to be hosted by India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh together. The fate of the upcoming tri-series between India, Sri Lanka and South Africa in Sri Lanka and the Australia tour of India in October also hangs in balance. The 26/11 Mumbai attacks have increased the threat perception of India in the international community. It has shown that India, too, can no longer be considered immune to such attacks.

The second season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) could be the first casualty in India. Several international cricketers have voiced apprehensions about their safety after Lahore attacks. There is uncertainty about the tournament after Home Minister P Chidambaram asked the IPL management to reschedule dates of the tournament. With general elections and IPL being held in tandem, enough police and paramilitary forces would not be available to ensure the safety of both events.

The IPL has thousands of crores riding on it and any delay could cause panic amongst the IPL management, franchisees, sponsors and players. If the tournament fails to take off, industry losses are estimated at Rs 2,000 crore. Each franchisee could lose around Rs 30 crore. The media rights will also suffer a huge blow while the sponsors would lose between Rs 10 and 20 crore. Additionally, a large number of tickets at places like Kolkata's Eden Garden (with a capacity of 90,000) have been sold and rescheduling or cancellation would surely cause mayhem.

Another cause for concern is the unavailability of players during the rest of the year. Hosting the season in a foreign location would entail losses and be a costly proposition. So, the IPL organisers are trying to convince political bigwigs who prefer caution over risk. And, the IPL management seems confident of holding the tournament during the scheduled period.

Pakistan hosting international matches anytime soon seems a distant reality. But, killing cricket will create more terrorists, as Younis Khan recently said. He appealed to the custodians of cricket in Pakistan to save the game otherwise the youngsters might veer towards terrorism. He feared that if no international cricket is played in the country then the youth would lose interest in the game. Instead, they could get involved with guns and bombs.

Khan's words corroborate the sentiments of the international cricket fraternity who see Pakistan as a safe haven for terrorists where no one is safe. Whether the IPL is called off or all international tours in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are cancelled, the biggest loser would not only be cricket. But, it would be a win for terrorists.