x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Sport 'not worth a single death'

Peter Moores and Matthew Hoggard are empathetic towards Pakistan cricket but put their jobs as sportsmen into perspective.

Mathew Hoggard, left, and Peter Moores, right, with Maurice Flanagan, the executive vice chairman of Emirates Airlines and Group, at the launch of ProArch Trophy.
Mathew Hoggard, left, and Peter Moores, right, with Maurice Flanagan, the executive vice chairman of Emirates Airlines and Group, at the launch of ProArch Trophy.

Peter Moores was coach of the touring England team when terrorists struck Mumbai in November last year. The visitors were in Bhubaneshwar, on their way to Guwahati when they watched the horror unfold on television. Twenty four hours later, Moores and his squad flew back home, cutting short their trip but returning later to play the Test matches - a "brave" decision that was widely hailed.

Back then, the former Sussex stumper was confident no harm would every come to a cricket team - but a little over two months later, he was proven wrong as the Sri Lankan team came under a hail of gunfire and mortars in Lahore on March 3. Five visiting cricketers and an umpire were injured in the attack while six policemen and two bystanders lost their lives. Many felt vindicated for their refusal to tour Pakistan earlier, while the worst nightmares came true for others. But Moores was stunned on hearing the news.

"I didn't expect something like this would ever happen," said the now Lancashire coach, who is in the UAE with his side to participate in the Emirates Airline ProArch Trophy. "One of things we held our hope in is that cricket teams will not be targeted. "That has obviously changed now. The things that happened in Pakistan have been a real shame. I think it has moved the goalposts a bit and obviously everybody has to reassess where things are now."

Matthew Hoggard was not part of the England team that toured India and he failed to find a place in the squad in the on-going tour of the Caribbean. But he laughs at suggestions that it is safer to play county cricket at the moment in the aftermath of Lahore. "It is very rare that you get a sporting event being attacked like that," said the seamer, who will be turning out for Yorkshire in the ProArch Trophy.

"You can say it is going to be safer in England, but you never know. It only takes one lunatic to open fire, drop poison or whatever and it is back to square one. "With the London bombings a couple of years ago, you never know where they are going to strike," he said. Hoggard, like the rest of the world, simply fails to understand the motive behind attacking sportsmen. "We are just entertainers," he said. "We are not politicians, we are not soldiers, we are not anything. We are just playing sport to entertain people. So it is very harsh to expect us to go out and put our life at risk.

"It is just a game. We always tell each other, 'it is more than a game, we play 120 per cent'; we always say that 'we would die for it', or whatever. But once you stand back and look at what's happened, it is still just a game. It is 11 players running around after a leather ball. It is not worth a single death." Both Moores and Hoggard feel sorry for the Pakistan cricketers and fans, but they are convinced the troubled nation will see little, if any, international cricket in the near future.

"Pakistan and India have always been the higher risk touring places," Hoggard said. "But we have always had a lot of security in place and our fears were quashed. "Unfortunately, the fears are heightened again after what poor Sri Lanka went through. It is going to be a long time before Pakistan see international cricket again." Moores added: "A the moment, everybody feels a great sympathy for Pakistan. They have missed a lot of Test match cricket.

"We will have to wait and see. At the moment, or in the near future, it is going to be tough [for teams to travel to Pakistan]. "It is a case of seeing what can be done for Pakistan. They will look at options of playing away and that will be very sad for them because they have got some great players whom the world of cricket wants to see play." Pakistan cricket's loss, however tragic, could be a boon for the game in the UAE. The Australians have already decided on playing their one-day series here and more teams could follow suit.

"One thing about the UAE is that the facilities being developed are fantastic," Moores said, adding his vote to the country playing host to international cricket. "I think we are going to see in the next few months and years what is going to happen." Hoggard added: "Any place in the world, which has got fantastic stadiums like the UAE, should see top quality cricket." arizvi@thenational.ae