The heinous serpent of terrorism bit into the fabric of peace as the world witnessed the Lahore terror attacks claim numerous souls. Every bullet that pierced through the fragile veil of life killed a little something inside all of us. One thing that hit me after the initial haze of distress, anger and then debate was the fact that the entire sub-continent has borne the brunt of a few dehumanised people and one of the aspects that has been fractured time and again is the realm of cricket.
I take up the cause of cricket because it is more than just a game in this part of a world, it is an extension of our life and any dastardly act of terrorism in our region is bound to affect the sport. We have grown up living with the spirit of cricket and a lot of things that we think and orate emanate from our love for the game which is a part of our day to day routine. What the perpetrators of the attacks managed to do was to cast a bleak shadow of terror on our lives, the repercussi
ons of which were for all to see with major tournaments being either postponed or cancelled.
Last year, the Mumbai terror attacks also generated apprehensions but the Indian government did all that was necessary to beef up the security measures and tackle the problem head on. Sadly, this had not been the case with Pakistan. The nation still burns with the sadist hatred of the terrorists there and the authorities have just not been able to hold the menace.
The major ramifications of the incident not only include the possible alienation of Pakistan from ICC’s World Cup scheme, it also puts in jeopardy the entire cricketing fabric of Pakistan. Who would like to even invite players from such a hostile territory…It might result in the infiltration of terrorists in their own land.
In India’s case, the English team flew back to their homeland only to realise that it is not just a regional problem and almost every nation is infested with the disease of terrorism in some way or the other and the best way to tackle it would be by refusing to give into fear. Shakespeare rightly said that ‘the show must go on’ and in these times of widespread hatred, it is the spirit of sport that can be a good deterrent to those who wish to cast lives with trepidation.
The moment the Champions League was postponed, ICL World Series called off and the England squad flew back to their homeland, we could see that the attackers had managed to strike us where it hurts the most.
The sub-continent prides itself when it comes to achieving feats in cricket and the very fact that the sport is suffering a backlash comes as a victory for the extremists.
India has constantly progressed as a powerhouse in cricket over the years. Not just the T20 World Cup, overseas victories and the home series clean sweep affirm this fact; even the money generated from the game is huge. A lot of employment comes out from staging events here and it would all fade away if we fail to provide a secure ground for the players.
It is believed by many that money is a major magnet for foreign teams to come and play here but there comes a time when no amount of money can lure someone to risk his life.
I heard a few people talking the other day and they were of the opinion that Indian cricket team should not tour Pakistan (as if our country is very safe!) and even went to the lengths to assert that since some of the terrorists might be from that region, it would be right not to play against them.
The one thing missing from their mode of thinking was the fact that it is not just us and them, but the entire sub-continent is plagued by this phenomenon and other countries would not tour any one of us if the situation persists. We must never forget that violence begets violence and we shall reap hatred if we sow it.
Cricket would definitely be affected by the recent unfolding of events and we will take sometime to return to normalcy, but the swift decision by the ECB shows that we can keep faith in our security men and also sends a positive signal to the world.
I can visualise matches that are set in the backdrop of guards and guns to protect us and the situation will gradually crawl back to where it was, at least for the cricketing world. The point when we seem to be headed back to normalcy is the point when we must be on our best guard.
There have been an array of terrorist acts in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh that have left the countries scarred and battered, but just like the previous occasions, we have learnt to carry forward our progress and start afresh. If we give into the desires of a handful of mercenaries garbed in the mask of fundamentalism or other hollow claims, what good is freedom to us as we are displaying an inefficiency to maintain it?
We need to show the world that the sub-continent is void of any fear when it comes to facing a few cowards calling themselves avengers of injustice and trying to envelope their hollow sadism with the claim.
Cancelling a tour in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka or Bangladesh will not serve any purpose, what needs to be done is to host the events just as we would normally do and ensure that they are carried out successfully with jam packed stadiums and let it be a symbol of our solidarity to the ones filled with hatred.
It is true that the safety of our sportspersons and the ones visiting us is paramount and any untoward incident is just not worth a game, however we can turn the situation on its head by taking it as a challenge to come out with solutions from our understanding of the situation amalgamated with the love of the sport. Shifting venues seems to be a possible solution right now and I have heard people debating endlessly that a neutral venue is a good option.
What we forget is that right now the terrorists are targeting security in venues as varied as the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai to the Galle Stadium in Sri Lanka. For how long will we run away from these demons?
We must join together beyond boundaries and keep vigil, forget petty acrimonies and help the governments to tackle the problem. We can shift the venues till a point in time when they aren’t safe anywhere, we can cancel tournaments till the game fades away or we can simply take concrete steps to make sure that all are safe and set an example to all that if the world is falling in an abyss of terrorism, the cricket field is the utopia. Double up as not only a mere spectator but as a guard of humanity too. Keep watch active at a sub-conscious level yet enjoy the match as well.
It is not all that impractical especially when multi-tasking is a thing that all understand and follow!!
Working in tandem with the authorities and devising new ways to combat the handful of enemies would be the right method to emerge victors in this war of humanity. We would be able to come out with the right anecdote to the poison of terrorism only when we stop blaming the ‘other’ for everything and take the onus upon us.
We have always used cricket as our therapy to life’s brunt and who says that we can’t use it as a method to counter terror.
It is simply selfish on our part to blame the government or the intelligence agencies (they have to get their act together at least now anyways!) as it becomes the duty of you and I to do whatever we can to root out this evil that has emerged as a painful reality of our times. We have to ask ourselves this question…Are we willing to hide in our homes and let the homeland be burnt to ashes or do we have the courage to go out and drive the terrorists out of our soil by our unity and practical thinking. When the ways of a terrorist can be unexpected and unthought-of, why can’t the solutions be unique and effective from our end as well?
There will be apprehensions in the beginning and we might see tours being called off in panic but all that needs to be done is to beef up the security on a mass as well as a personal level. It’s just a matter of realising that the problem is as much as ours as it is for the ones in power and all of us need to do our bit in the endeavour to terminate any form of terrorism on our soils, be it Karachi or Hyderabad.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)