IN just over a week’s time the planned PSL final is to be played in Lahore and yet uncertainty looms over the impending decision from the government and security agencies pondering whether it will be possible to hold the final of the cash-rich league in the Punjab capital amid the recent wave of terrorist attacks.
It appears to me from what I see and read about it, neither the federal government nor the provincial authorities in Punjab including its Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif nor the people responsible for security and for that matter even the PCB are on the same page after initial acceptance and assurances from every direction.
In the last couple of weeks situation tragically has changed and those who have lost their loved ones are the ones who know how painful it has been for them. A PSL final in Lahore will, no doubt, add insult to their injuries. Resilience in adversity is always a brave effort but not at the risk of staging a domestic cricket final.
I can also understand the disappointment of Pakistan’s cricket fraternity that our country from 2009 onwards when the visiting Sri Lankan team was attacked by terrorists in Lahore on the way to the Gaddafi Stadium on the third day of the second Test has not been able to host international teams. That is sad.
The nomadic existence of our team since, playing on other corners of the field and in the foreign lands and home fans remaining deprived thus of even watching their international players in action on home grounds is not what a cricket-loving nation had asked for.
I for one like others would have loved to see international cricket return home and not for one moment have doubted the integrity and good faith of PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan and Najam Sethi, the PSL chief, and their attempts to bring home international cricketers but at what cost. That is the question?
In 2015, they did manage Zimbabwe to come and play a couple of ODIs under strict security but that too kind of misfired as an explosion in front of the Gaddafi Stadium cast a lot of aspersions in the minds of people.
The question is: is it really worth going through all the threat and risks that is around us to hold the final of a domestic event? And would this help bring back international cricket to Pakistan? Are we not aware that the embassies and high commissions of the cricket-playing countries are the ones who matter most to allow or disallow their country’s teams to our shore?
Even if a number of foreign players do dare and join the teams in the final, would that help in the final reckoning to lure teams? The very fact that we are unable to host international teams in a home series since last eight years is itself distressing for all of us.
The army, the Rangers, the police and intelligence agencies do their bit in as professional a manner as possible. But terrorists have no boundaries, no religion, no love and being an unseen enemy work in different ways to destroy the infrastructure of a peaceful society.
That is the fear and a threat which makes people defenseless. People with first-hand experience and those who have suffered know what it is like to be in the midst of a terrorist attack.
I can never forget that fateful day in March 2009 when I left the Lahore Gymkhana where I was staying to cover the second Test against Sri Lanka. Luckily for me I was 15 minutes late that morning because of delayed breakfast or else I would have been at the Liberty roundabout where Sri Lankan coach was attacked and suffered injuries.
Much as I would love to see Pakistan play at home I dread playing this final is much too greater a risk, if God forbid, something goes wrong.
Therefore, let’s be positive in making a decision and the PCB should leave it to those who know better and that is of course the government and the security agencies. And a decision has got to be made within 24 hours so that arrangements are well in place for the much-awaited final.
Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2017