Everyone in Pakistan is disappointed and angry over the cancellation of tours to Pakistan by the cricketing teams of New Zealand and England.
While the New Zealand cricket team called off its tour of Pakistan, minutes before the first match was due to begin in Rawalpindi, England’s men’s and women’s teams were to play Twenty20 matches in the city next month.
The cancellation of these tours is a major embarrassment and setback to the Pakistani government and the Pakistan Cricket Board. Rejected by the international community after the attack on the Sri Lanka team in Lahore in 2009, Pakistan had been working hard to bring back top international teams to play in the country.
New Zealand’s government has said that the reason for the cancellation of the tour was linked to information about a possible attack on its team in Pakistan. On the other hand, England’s cricket board has cited the “mental and physical well-being” of the players as the reason for the cancellation.
The government of Pakistan claims that the cancellation of tours is part of a conspiracy against the country. It says the development was led by some Western countries to punish Pakistan for its controversial role in Afghanistan. While referring to the cancellation of the New Zealand and England tours, Pakistan’s Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Tuesday that Pakistan was paying the price of not offering the United States military bases to carry out any sort of action inside Afghanistan. “If you say ‘absolutely not’ then it has a price and you have to pay it,” Chaudhry said.
On Thursday, Chaudhry again stated that the New Zealand cricket team’s decision to cancel the tour was triggered by an Indian-origin influence campaign that spread disinformation about a possible terrorist attack. He rejected reports claiming that there was a credible threat against the New Zealand cricket team. Similarly, the newly-elected chief of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Ramiz Raja, said on Wednesday that Pakistan has been “used and binned” by the “Western Bloc.”
While it is unfortunate to see that international teams are shunning Pakistan again, it is astounding that Pakistani officials are doing everything they can to politicize the issue.
No government official has made an effort to acknowledge that the events in Afghanistan have changed the region’s security situation drastically and the rising threat from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan could be among the reasons that led to the cancellation of the tours.
For instance, in their announcement, England did not state any security threat to its team but said that there are “increasing concerns about travelling to the region” and “that going ahead will add further pressure to a playing group who have already coped with a long period of operating in restricted Covid environments.”
However, Pakistan is taking an absurd line. Instead of threatening the international teams, and calling for action against them, Pakistan’s government should take into account the deteriorating security situation of the region and the country as well.
Already, Pakistan is left with the difficult task of convincing international teams that the country is safe for cricket. If anything, it should be channeling its anger and frustration into addressing the international community’s concerns.
Ironically, online disinformation campaigns are being cited as a reason for the cancellation of the New Zealand trip. If Pakistan was under such an attack, the country should have actively pursued the matter and addressed it in time to save the trip.
Pakistan needs to learn from the matter and devise plans to ensure this doesn’t happen again. The country has worked for more than a decade to bring international cricket back to the country. The current government should be willing and ready to work harder to protect these gains.
Going forward, blame games and wild conspiracies will only make Pakistan’s case more difficult when it comes to drawing international cricket matches back to the country again.