SPORTS AND POLITICS should never mix. That old saying has never been more true following the tragic events in Lahore, Pakistan, today.
Six policemen were killed and seven members of the Sri Lankan cricket team wounded in the latest atrocity on the Indian subcontinent.
The ambush took place as the Sri Lankans were on their way to the Gaddafi Stadium to play a Test match against Pakistan.
Officials said the incident bore similarities to the deadly attacks in Mumbai, India, last November. The England cricket team, who were touring India at the time, returned home before agreeing to resume their tour the following month.
There is absolutely no chance of Sri Lanka following suit after an attack that will rock the very foundations of world sport, never mind cricket.
Haroon Lorgat, chief executive of the International Cricket Council, said: “It’s difficult to see international cricket being played in Pakistan for the foreseeable future.”
Should Sri Lankans have even been there?
But the question remains: Should the Sri Lankans have been in Pakistan in the first place?
Australia withdrew from a scheduled tour to Pakistan in March of the last year due to safety concerns and only last month, the ICC decided not to hold this year’s Champions Trophy for the same reason.
In India and Pakistan, cricket is like a religion. The top players such as Sachin Tendulkar and Mohammad Yousuf are worshipped like gods.
Crowds are large and boisterous. The advent of Twenty20 cricket and the formation of the Indian Premier League have led to a resurgence in interest and generated huge revenue.
Sadly, however, politics has never been too far away. And now, it seems, terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and the Taliban see sportsmen as a legitimate target.
Former Pakistan Test captain Wasim Bari believes his country should not be subject to a boycott.
“What happened today is a great tragedy but at a time when terrorist attacks are taking place all over the world, Pakistan cricket should not be abandoned or isolated.”
Bari has a point but the fact remains that Pakistan has now gone from a red-flag destination to a no-go area.
Just as South Africa was boycotted by the other cricket-playing nations for 30 years due to apartheid, so Pakistan will be shunned until it can prove that it’s safe to return. That could be some time off.