Terrorism jeopardises cricket's future
Pakistan has been hit by a spate of bombings to ensure it will finish 2008 without playing a single cricket Test, while Sri Lanka's civil war involving the Tamil Tigers has been going for more than 25 years and shows no sign of abating.
Now, after more than 100 people were killed and 250 injured in Mumbai in India's worst terror attack, England's one day international tour matches have been postponed and the team is to fly home today.
Yesterday's hostage drama unfolded at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel – where England had stayed only two weeks earlier and were due to base themselves for the final Test. Now they will fly back to London to take stock before deciding whether to return for the scheduled two-Test series.
Australia's tour of India in September also started in controversial circumstances after a series of bombs in New Delhi killed at least 20 people and injured 90.
Hundreds of people have died in Pakistan from suicide bombings, forcing the ICC to postpone the biennial Champions Trophy – the second most prestigious one-day tournament after the World Cup – from September to a date still to be decided.
And yesterday's terrorist attack has also caused the postponement in India of the inaugural Twenty20 Champions League tournament that involves the top five provincial teams in the world. You won't hear the old cliche that 'the shows must go on' in these parts. The terrorists' objective of bringing as much destruction and disruption to the region as possible has certainly paid off in sport, where the risks have been considered too great of late.
The instability of the Asian nations means the ability of Asian nations to host sporting tours has been severely compromised, threatening a sport in a region containing four of the nine Test-playing nations.
The other five countries in the International Cricket Council – Australia, England, New Zealand, South Africa and West Indies – have recently demonstrated their reluctance to visit the subcontinent, and the future of the sport could be bleak if that continues.
"You want cricket to be played in all parts of the world and that has been the problem with Pakistan, you haven't been able to tour there because of the volatile country," said New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori, who fears that Test cricket – a small enough club as it is – could be restricted to being played in only three or four countries if the security situation doesn't improve."
The concerns have even forced the Pakistan Cricket Board to consider staging a series against India at a neutral venue in January. Former Sri Lanka captain Hashan Tillakaratne has a forlorn outlook on the sport's future. "Pakistan is already struggling without tours and India has had to cancel two tournaments," said Tillakaratne. "With these bombings, cricket may come to a standstill."
England stood firm under pressure from Indian cricket chiefs by deciding to return home to monitor the security situation following the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India was keen for the tourists to remain in the country and complete the remainder of their seven-week tour despite the terrorist incidents.
But after a day of intensive discussions between England, the BCCI, the players and the England and Wales Cricket Board , the tourists decided to fly home today with a view to returning for the Test series providing security assurances are in place.
"We're going to London to re-evaluate the situation but the Test series is still in place," explained Hugh Morris, the managing director of English cricket. "It's been an awful tragedy that this has happened in Mumbai and the players have felt very close to it because they have been in the hotel and in the rooms and the restaurant only a couple of weeks ago."
Whether England return or not, their decision to go home gained support from India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. "We are entertainers," said the skipper, "but we should not be entertaining at a time like this."