A Valentine gift to Pakistan

Written by: Sajith Balakrishnan
Published: Sunday, February 15, 2004, 16:12 [IST]
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The clearance given by the Government of India for the proposed tour of Pakistan might have been a shot in the arm for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) that couldn't have asked for a better gift on a Valentine's day.

There was tremendous pressure on both the Boards as well as the Governments with security threats looming large on the players. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) wisely decided to send a three-member security delegation that comprised a top-level security officer to monitor the arrangements made by the PCB. The delegation seems to have been pretty satisfied with the arrangements there and is expected to return back to the country in a day or two, following which the final itinerary for the tour is to be drawn.

The green signal given by the Government might have pleased the two Boards and the Pakistan players, but not the Indian team who just came back after a long and an arduous Australian summer. Apprehensions about players' security badly distracted them as was evident in the last phase of the Australian tour where they seemed to have lost focus and surrendered meekly.

However, the BCCI chief has averred that there was no question of compelling the players and that the decision was theirs. The players are likely to be subjected to the kind of pressure that they have never been under considering the fact that the arch-rivals are going to meet in Pakistan after a 14-year hiatus. With patriotism likely to reach feverish pitch during Indo-Pak clash, the players have more at stake.

The kind of passion that the Indo-Pak clashes generates is enormous. Quite often, it's more than a match. Considering the fact that Sachin and Sourav are on the hit list of a notorious terrorist organisation, it wouldn't be a surprise if a few players pull out from the tour. Notwithstanding the repeated security assurances from Islamabad, imagine the catastrophe that would strike the country in case any thing untoward happens.

From the security point of view, Pakistan is a vulnerable country. The fact that even the President of the country was subjected to a couple of assassination bids recently, proves that the country is a hot bed of jihadis and fundamentalists. To shield the Premier of a country and closet him in an elite room is quite different from shielding eleven battle-bound warriors in a stadium thronged by a partisan, sometimes hostile crowd.

For the Indians, it might be tough to resist the challenge of playing their archrivals at their hometurf. But the issues at stake are beyond cricket with the likes of petty-politics, commerce and the lot ruling the roost in the run up to what could be called a historic tour in every sense.

The timing of the tour too has put the Indians on the backfoot. Most of the players would have preferred a break after a long Australian summer, as the list of casualties went on increasing by the day. Instead, they are forced to lock horns with one of the fiercest teams in the business, that too under testing conditions.

The Indians have little to choose from now on as the Government has put rest to all speculations by giving the go-ahead to the tour. An over-zealous BCCI president must be the happiest of the lot, since the cancellation of tour which was very much on the cards would have won him a lot of enemies from the ranks of the apex body International Cricket Council (ICC) which has been very strict as far as fulfilment of the ICC schedule was concerned.

For a layman too, there is nothing more than an Indo-Pak clash. There are smiles everywhere, from the panwala's face to the tea vendor's, but not cricketers, especially, the Indian camp that is quite wary of the threat factor to their lifes. For them, it is a game of death. It is said that discretion is better part of valour. But men who matter don't pay heed to such theories.

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