Recent news that Pakistan’s Caribbean tour scheduled in the second half of this summer might be in jeopardy should be a cause for much distress amongst Pakistan fans and the Cricket community in general. The reason being given is that the two boards failed to find a suitable time frame for the series (which would comprise a minimum of two Tests, five ODIs and the solitary T20) due to other international commitments at the time.
The question that begs to be asked however, is how is there no time frame available when the ten-year FTP has a scheduled window for the tour in July of this year. It turns out the West Indies Cricket board took it upon themselves to schedule an ODI tri-series with India and Sri Lanka in July, overriding the FTP tour, and then went on to set up the Caribbean premier league to kick off later in the month. The Pakistan Cricket Board was then asked to squeeze in the tour in August, something they are hesitant to do, in the hope of hosting India for the tentative series planned during that time. While changes to tour structure, and additions during vacant windows are common practice, replacing already existent FTP tours completely with other country visits (without any political reasoning) are unheard of and a highly disrespectful act towards the PCB.
It raises quite a few issues. It is obvious why the West Indies have initiated such a move. The prospect of a lucrative ODI tri-series with India generates much needed revenue for a cash strapped board like the West Indies, but at the same time makes a similar body like the PCB suffer heavily in its stead. Often you will see such a tri-series sandwiched between the two touring sides in the season (Pakistan, Sri Lanka), while the remaining end of the triangle is fulfilled by the host nation (West Indies). Not only was Pakistan passed on such an offer, the idea of a four-nation tournament (with India) was also deemed unworthy. It is not hard to determine why the latter didn’t materialize as a prospect; the financial clout of India in world cricket is such that the smaller boards don’t want to risk a rejection by irking the mention of the cricketing giant’s less than friendly neighbor in a multi-team event.
The PCB of course is well within its rights not to budge on the hopes of an Indian tour during August/September. But given how the BCCI has dealt with the PCB over the last few years, it remains all but a fool’s hope. While the PCB’s current administration has bent over backwards for their Indian counterpart in the hope of a revival of Cricketing terms, the neighboring powerhouse can’t care less for its once-upon-a-time biggest sporting rival.
Pakistan toured India for a short limited-over series in the winter, even though it was India’s turn to “tour” since the 2007-08 series between the two sides was also held in India. Indian domestic sides have continued to reap the benefits of Pakistan coaches, and it seems the BCCI has no problems fielding top-notch Pakistani umpires in its competitions as well. Commentators from across the borders seem to find space behind Indian microphones with a readiness never witnessed before, yet the current cricketers donning the Pakistan star seem to be valued nothing short of scum when it comes to IPL auctions.
Of course, the BCCI officials will point towards the political tensions between the two countries as the major thorn in efforts to better the relationship. But surely those tensions amongst politicians run both ways. In fact, when it comes to it, the PCB is under much tighter government control with the President of the country still acting as its Patron-in-Chief. The BCCI on the other hand, was till recently identifying itself as an independent “charitable” organization. Surely being such a strong administrative body the BCCI can make efforts (or at least match them) in rising above petty political bickering and use Cricket as a tool to pave the way for improved relations between the two countries.
Pakistan’s “deliberate” ineffective tackling of radical elements within their own country, which then also harm India’s sovereignty, is cited as the political excuse behind the BCCI’s lack of interest in resuming cricket ties. But surely if there is one single body that deserves to be supported for its anti-terror stance and perseverance in the face of terrorism it is the Pakistan Cricket team. Doubters can blame the ISI, the government even the army for having mixed intentions, but no one can doubt the international team’s suffering and resilience over the last five years.
They have been reduced, ironically due to this same threat of terrorism that irks the Indian authorities so much, to a nomadic bunch of sportsmen unwilling to bow down to the inexplicable atrocities that they, the PCB, or any other sporting body in the country have any control over. Yet they have fought on and performed amicably in their effort, which to most rational observers should be a cause that brings them closer to India, and all teams around the world, rather than being shunned like the poor estranged family relative. If the Indian government and the BCCI really want to take a stance against the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks it would serve them much better to reach across and help out the crippled cricket team that despite all odds, continues to fight a battle in every “home” game it plays in the desert heat of the UAE.
The PCB of course is not guilt free. Its administration over the years has left a lot to be desired, and some stunted ex-heads have left relationships with most boards extremely sour. Once kingmakers with a considerable say in the running of the game, they are now scraping for crumbs, which are also being whisked away in moves such as this recent West Indies one. Yet for all its financial drawbacks and mishandlings the PCB has kept its promises of the FTP. They have emptied their coffers time and again, “hosting” sides in far-flung New Zealand, England and the UAE, taking revenue cuts in the effort to keep the interest of the game alive. Not just that, they continue to be the flag bearers helping cricket develop in fledgling countries like Afghanistan and Ireland.
In return, they deserve the promises made to them to be kept and enforced by the ICC. The West Indies tour must go on, and so should the planned series against India later this year. The current administration has extended a friendly hand, now is the time more than ever that big brother needs to answer.