Friday, August 1, 2008

Is Pakistan a suitable venue for ICC Champions Trophy 2008

An ominous uncertainty continues to surround the fate of this year’s Champions Trophy which the International Cricket Council (ICC) had decided two years ago to be hosted in Pakistan in September this year. Pakistan’s status as host of this tournament had been in serious jeopardy in recent months with national cricket bodies and player representatives from Australia, New Zealand and England expressing concerns about security. These fears, howsoever exaggerated, are not entirely unfounded.Pakistan Cricket Control Board’s non-cricketing dual nationality chairman, however, has made it a question of his own “life and death.” He has been using all the PCB “resources” including the monetary ones at his command to ensure that the Champions Trophy does take place in Pakistan at any cost and by all means.
The only other example of this remarkable perseverance is that of his boss and mentor, who has been waging a war of “one against all” since March last year only to remain in power at any cost and by all means.Dr Nasim Ashraf’s excessively euphoric expressions after ICC’s decision last week reconfirming Pakistan as the host country for the 2008 Champions Trophy remind us of T S Eliot’s famous lines conveying a message of limitless perseverance: “We shall not cease from exploring; And at the end of all our exploring; Will be to arrive where we started; And know the place for the first time.”Announcing ICC’s decision after its teleconference in Dubai, Dr Ashraf was wildly ebullient in appreciating the “great spirit and friendly atmosphere” that characterised the Council discussion leading to what he described the “right” decision taken in the “larger interest” of the game.
In one hurried breath, he also thanked a whole bunch of persons and countries for their “kind” support in facilitating the ICC consensus in favour of Pakistan. Alas, his idyllic delight was short-lived, and his euphoria totally misplaced.Players from Australia, New Zealand and England had already been expressing reservations on going to Pakistan for the mega event. During the Council’s Dubai teleconference, similar concerns were repeated on behalf of several stakeholders like broadcasters, players’ association and others over the “troubled” security situation in Pakistan, citing security agencies’ reports. South African team were also disappointed with the decision and extremely concerned about “safety and security” in Pakistan.Should the top players from Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa refuse to play in the tournament, those countries will have no choice but to send weakened teams or pull out.
The ICC President David Morgan confirmed this scenario when he admitted that a number of countries might send only depleted squads. According to him, “as things stand currently, these countries will find it difficult to guarantee their first-choice elevens or squads’ participation at the ICC Champions Trophy in Pakistan.”Against this backdrop, PCB chairman’s obsession to bring unwilling cricket teams and reluctant cricketers to our country is incomprehensible. He is wrong if he thinks he will manage to strike a deal. Earlier this year, he tried to induce the Australians to come to Pakistan. He failed. He used every argument to convince the Australians not to postpone their Pakistan tour scheduled for March. In order to allay their security fears, he offered the Aussies a paradigm framework of “foolproof” security arrangements while in Pakistan.Our doctor friend’s security ingenuities could be appreciated from what the Sydney Morning Herald had depicted the PCB-proposed security scenario for the Aussies’ aborted Pakistan tour in March: “Personal security guards will shadow Australia’s cricketer’s throughout their stay in Pakistan as part of stringent security usually reserved for visiting heads of state.“Bodyguards will be assigned to each Australian player, bomb-detection dogs will be used and all roads closed to traffic nearby as the team travels to and from grounds. When they are entering their team bus, it will be checked by bomb-disposal units. There will be sniffer dogs, too.
If a player is travelling in a lift, there will be security with him. If he goes to eat somewhere, he will have protection. There will be man-to-man security even in bathrooms.”This could easily pass for a comic-horror movie script. Only an expatriate anokha laadla PCB chairman with total “disconnect” with home realities could offer such “watchful” security package. No wonder the Cricket Australia were not convinced. In fact, even the Indians whom he then tried to rope in for a short three ODI series just to fill the gap expressed their inability to oblige. It was understandable. No one could trust our security situation, all the lofty assurances by PCB chairman notwithstanding.