x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Pakistan now left in total isolation

Back in January I wrote how Pakistani cricket was in danger of being isolated from the international game.

Back in January I wrote how Pakistani cricket was in danger of being isolated from the international game. That was after the Mumbai attacks led to India's government barring their cricketers from touring Pakistan. The Indian authorities have been proved correct while the Sri Lankans are counting the cost of their decision to step into the void after their players were attacked by gunmen in Lahore.

The ramifications for the game in Pakistan, for cricket on the sub-continent and for the sport worldwide are immense. But none of this even begins to count the human cost of Tuesday's tragedy. As a Pakistani and a cricket lover the shame is almost too much to bear. After the attack, the former Sri Lankan captain, Hashan Tillakaratne, said his country's cricket administrators and government ministers were to blame for sending the team to a country which already had well-known problems with security.

Imran Khan, Pakistan's most famous former captain turned politician, said the Pakistani authorities were to blame, observing government ministers had a higher level of security than that given to the Sri Lankan team. The former Pakistani batsman, Younis Ahmed, believed the International Cricket Council (ICC) were culpable for allowing the tour to go ahead. The only blameless actors in the piece are the players.

They go where they are told, so why did the Sri Lankan Board send them to Pakistan? Did they send their own security assessors to Pakistan? If there were any reports, what did they conclude? If they did not send their own security team, why not? These questions all need to be answered. After fewer than 2,000 people went to watch Pakistan's first home Test in more than a year in Karachi, the cricket commentator Rameez Raja said the reason for the low attendance had been the exceptionally tight security at the National Stadium.

That was at the venue, but en route to the Qadafi Stadium for the third day's play of the second Test in Lahore there was a lapse in the protection being provided to the Sri Lankans. Why? And possibly more importantly, could it have been avoided if the ICC had become involved in organising the tour? Haroon Lorgat, the chief executive of the ICC, told the BBC on Tuesday that discussions had taken place before the tour and that the ICC were aware of the security being provided.

Discussions can never be good enough again, all future tours must be preceded by full independent security assessments carried out on behalf of the ICC. The ICC knew there was a pre-existing security issue in Pakistan. They did, after all, deem Pakistan to be too unstable to stage the Champions Trophy in Sept 2008. Lorgat has admitted the ICC made the Sri Lankan Board aware of their concerns about Pakistan, but that the board decided to proceed after receiving their own security assessment. This must surely mean it is time for the ICC to take more responsibility when it comes to the safety.

Most of the Sri Lanka players had the closest brush with death they will encounter, six Pakistanis paid with their lives and Muttiah Muralitharan has said that during the attack he believed his time had come and he was about to die. All for cricket. All for nothing. That's what international cricket in Pakistan is now - nothing. The end is here and the isolation is complete. Even for the country's players, the future is everywhere but Pakistan.

@Email:sports@thenational.ae Adnan Nawaz is a BBC World News sports presenter.