When the BCCI contrived to send a formal letter to exhort the International Cricket Council (ICC) to boycott Pakistan from cricket, even it knew what it was asking was not within the realm of possibility and ambience of the world’s governing body. With the Bangladesh cricket team having returned home with barely a scratch but plenty of mental scars, cricket has been put on a rather sticky wicket.
The letter of intent sent by the CoA on behalf of the BCCI to the ICC under pressure from the general mass population of the country to cut ties with Pakistan over the Pulwama terror attack on army personnel was in reality a matter of mere formality considering the fact that the ICC has been wary in the past from intervening in political embargo within and between cricket playing nations. That the ICC cannot afford to alienate any Test playing nation given the number of teams participating at any one time is another obvious factor that would have, in any case, made the BCCI letter redundant.
However, last week’s terror attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, one of which was being visited by the visiting Bangladesh cricket team ahead of the Hagley Oval Test has thrown the debate wide open. Under pressure to show some sort of reaction, the BCCI had tried to appease the general public in India by claiming to assert with the ICC the need to ramp up security for the Indian cricket team, particularly during the key clash with Pakistan, in the course of the ICC Cricket World Cup given the backdrop of tension and terror escalating between the borders of the two nations.
Now while a visibly shaken Bangladesh team returned home after the cancellation of the Hagley Test, a situation not unlike the one New Zealand faced a few years back when they returned home from Pakistan following a bomb blast outside their hotel, Pakistan is up in indignation although the scenario appears unlikely to change anytime soon.
When India refused to tour Pakistan post the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, Sri Lanka travelled to Pakistan only to return home shellshocked followed an attack on their team bus outside the Gaddafi stadium in Lahore. With injuries, physical and mental, the scars refuse to go away even as it has been ten years since that dreaded attack. While the BCCI has passed the buck on to the Indian government and then onto the ICC to take a call, the Pakistan public is now demanding whether similar action will be taken to alienate New Zealand or whether it is a case of discrimination that has seen Pakistan isolated from hosting international cricket matches.
It is a situation the ICC will be hard pressed to answer in a manner that will seem fair, uniform and just across the playing field.