A football match in Lahore

I had been working on a long, statistically based, post on New Zealand’s Test batting history, but I came across a rather fundamental flaw in my data and was forced to scrap the entire project. Alas, I am now watching the Caribbean T20 and trying to think about something to write about.

This story regarding Pakistan jumped out at me. To sum it up, the ICC has left the future of international home matches up to the PCB and its relationship with other cricketing boards.

In other words, Pakistan has the very difficult task of convincing nations like England, Australia, and South Africa that their country is safe enough for their cricketers.

And while I feel for young Pakistani cricketers and for the whole of Pakistan’s fans, I understand the position of the ICC. I might not agree with it, but I get it: They cannot force other boards to send their cricketers to a country that cannot provide adequate assurances of their safety – it has to be done via individual negotiations with individual countries.

Interestingly, while Pakistan has not hosted a major international hockey tournament since 2004 (they were regular hosts beforehand), they have hosted an international football match: Bangladesh played a 2014 World Cup qualifying match in Lahore in July of 2011.

Of course, football is simply not the same marquee event in Pakistan as cricket is (only 3,500 attended the match), but it still is an international sporting match. In Pakistan. And yet somehow it seems Pakistan is a decade away from hosting international cricket matches again.

And that’s a shame. Because they are exciting and they are fun to watch and they are winning. It’s a shame that an entire generation of young cricketers are not able to watch their heroes play on their home soil against the best in the world. And it’s a shame that PCB is completely on its own in trying to rectify the situation. Why in the world would the ECB send its cricketers to Pakistan when Qatar is an option? No reason whatsoever. In fact, I see no reason why they would even sit down at the table to negotiate.

A commenter on the article gives the conspiracy theory that the boards of South and Australia…etc are avoiding going back to Pakistan for cricketing reasons. Simply put: they don’t want to play on the subcontinent. And while that might seem mildly fantastical, there is a lot of money to be made in winning cricket matches – sponsorships, attendance at home matches – and so it would hold that international boards would want to play as few matches under alien and difficult conditions as possible.

I’ll ask the question again: why in the world would South Africa play in Lahore when they could play in Dubai?

No reason whatsoever.

And that’s too bad.

Now, I was not on the Sri Lankan team bus that came under fire in 2009, and I was not in Mumbai in November 2008, and I am aware that it truly is dangerous for westerners in Pakistan right now (the US State Department’s Travel Warning reads like a horror novel), but if Bangladesh’s footballers can be safe, and if the PCB can provide safety assurances to the satisfaction of an international and independent board appointed by the ICC, then Pakistan should be allowed to host international matches, and the ICC should require all teams to play their series in Pakistan and not in the UAE.

As long as it is safe, the upsides are enormous. International matches in Pakistan are not just good for the sport in Pakistan, they are good for cricket the world over. And even more than that, they are good for Pakistan the country and Pakistan’s citizens.

It can’t be left to individual negotiations with individual states. The ICC needs to do more than guide the process. They need to direct it.

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2 Responses to A football match in Lahore

  1. Martin says:

    The trouble is, the ICC don’t have a team to verify security arrangements in countries. So while, I agree they need to help as much as they can, individual boards have to be the ones who look at security arrangements.

    Also, I don’t buy the arguments that teams would much rather go to the UAE than Pakistan, the pitches in the UAE have been pretty slow and low or skiddy like on England’s tour, either way, sub-continental style and difficult for non-subcontinent teams to play in. I actually think the pitches might be a bit more conducive to pace in Pakistan, given the amount of quality pace bowlers they produce.

    • Matt says:

      I think the ICC could arrange for an independent body to review security concerns on their behalf. A mix of security experts, athletes, and board representatives. In a perfect world that would be the proper solution, I think. But until such a body exists (and it probably never will, sadly, due to ICC bureaucracy) it has to be left in the hands of the individual boards – which I think is stalling the process.
      Also, while it is an incredibly small sample size, your point about the pitches in the UAE versus the pitches in Pakistan seems to be on the mark – now that I have taken the time to look at the actual data. Australia is the only nation that has beaten Pakistan in the UAE in a Test match. And the one day records for teams in the UAE are rather dismal, as well. Therefore it would behoove boards to speed up the “reintegration” of Pakistan.
      Cheers as always for reading and commenting.

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