March 16, 2009

I Laughed Aloud Twice When I Heard About The Attack On The Sri Lankan Cricket Team

Yes, I laughed aloud twice when I heard that a gang of armed men in Lahore, Pakistan had attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team.

I laughed not because I was a fan of the Pakistan, Australian and South African teams, and not a fan of the Sri Lankan team; but because some years back when the Australian team refused to tour Sri Lanka due to the unstable situation in the country, and the South African team cut their tour short after a bomb blast in Colombo, the blind patriots and cricket pundits in the country started taking pot shots at the Australians and the South Africans. To them, bomb blasts and violence was as natural as the plain tea and rice they had everyday. If you happened to die from a bomb blast, it was due to fate and something beyond your control. And God have mercy on the country or individual who said that Sri Lanka was not a safe country. The wrath of the majority would be turned against that country or individual.

The second reason I laughed was because, even after India had done a threat assessment and decided that it was not safe for its cricket team to travel to Pakistan; and even after the Mini World Cup had been cancelled in Pakistan by the ICC after another threat assessment had been done, the SL Cricket Board and the SL Government thumbed their noses at the ICC and India and decided to tour Pakistan. The result was the attack on the SL Cricketers, and if not for a brave Pakistani driver, there might have been a bigger disaster than what took place.

I wonder who is laughing now? Most probably the South Africans and the Australians along with Shane Warne who were vilified in the local press a few years ago.
There were probably two reasons that the SL Cricket Board and the SL Government agreed to tour Pakistan. In the case of the SL Cricket Board it was for monetary reasons, and in the case of the SL Government, it was to thank the Pakistani Government for selling them arms to fight the LTTE and the Tamils. It looks like the SL Cricket Board was only thinking of filling its empty coffers, and the SL Government was willing to put its cricketers at risk to curry favour with the Pakistani’s and snub India (who incidentally don’t sell offensive weapons to Sri Lanka).

There seemed to be quite an outpouring of shock and grief in Sri Lanka over what the cricketers had to endure in Pakistan. The irony and the hypocrisy of it all is that non of these very same people seem to give two hoots about the hundreds of Tamil civilians who are being killed and wounded in the north due to the bombings by the SL armed forces. One can only imagine the hue and cry that would have been raised if even one Sinhalese cricketer had been killed in the attack. So far the SL Government hasn’t directly blamed the LTTE for the attack like it does in Sri Lanka for anything that happens from the lack of rain, to the increase of petrol prices to the killings of editors, journalists and burning of television stations. They have also not called the attack ‘An International Conspiracy to tarnish the image of the Government’ like they have done in the recent past.

What nobody knows is whether the attack on the SL cricketers by an unidentified Jihadists group, could have been a ‘proxy attack’ on behalf of the LTTE or the Government of India. In the case of the LTTE it could have been in revenge for the killing of Tamil civilians from incessant shelling and multi barrel rocket attacks by the SL Government, and in the case of India, it could be in revenge for the Mumbai attacks, which were planned in Pakistan. This is mere speculation, but anything is possible in this wonderful world we live in today.

One good thing that may come out of the attack is that in future if countries like Australia, South Africa, England or New Zealand decide to cancel a tour due to security reasons, countries like Sri Lanka will think twice before trying to vilify those countries. People in the above mentioned countries value the lives of their citizens more than in third world countries like Sri Lanka. If such an attack, which occurred against the SL cricket team, happened to any of the teams of the above-mentioned countries, heads would have rolled and people responsible for organising the tour would have voluntarily resigned. But in Sri Lanka, its business as usual with bribery, corruption and kickbacks from arms deals going full speed ahead.

If there was money to be made, the SL Cricket Board would organize a tour to even the North Pole, and the SL Government would send the cricket team to Somalia or Afghanistan if those countries were willing to sell them arms and ammunition to fight the LTTE and the Tamils.

The way things look at the moment it’s more than likely that the 2011 World Cup will be held in Australia and New Zealand. As long as maximum power is not devolved to the Tamils of Sri Lanka, as long as India does not give autonomy to the Kashmir population, and as long as various Jihadist groups operate in Pakistan, there is going to be security threats to all cricket teams that tour these countries. Future cricket tours will probably take place in neutral venues like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and Asia wont be able to host a World Cup for a very long time. Like they say, its better to be safe than sorry. (Thank God for Cable TV).

ps: A story doing the rounds is that the attack on the SL cricketers targeting players like Sangakara, Mahela, Samaraweera and Vaas was masterminded by Sanath Jayasuriya so that there would be no one left to appoint as captain except for himself, is nothing but a malicious rumour. Also the targeting of Tharanga Parnavithana who may have been a threat to Jayasuriya’s slot as an opening batsman is also just another rumour.
“No such rumours or attacks will deter me from playing until the 2039 World Cup,” said Sanath Jayasuriya when questioned by a reporter.

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