Mar 6, 2009

First-hand nightmares

In first-hand accounts of what happened during those fateful twenty or so minutes as bullets pounded into the bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team and the van transporting officials that followed it, match referee Chris Broad and test umpires Simon Taufel and Steve Davis have not minced words. Their vivid description of the terrifying attack, provided to the media as Mr Broad landed at Manchester Airport and Mr Taufel and Mr Davis at Sydney, gives us an insight into how people everywhere will see the events of the morning of March 3. Both men appeared genuinely shocked over the sight of Pakistani security men running for cover and said that they had been more or less deserted by the police security escort once the firing began. Mr Taufel and Mr Davis made the rather chilling disclosure that the van in which they were in was a "sitting duck" for the terrorists because its driver had been killed in the firing. The umpires – Mr Taufel is ranked the world's best – said that they had been virtually left "stranded and helpless" because no one came to their aid while the firing was going on. Their candid comments will have several immediate results. For one, they seal the fate of Pakistan cricket for some time to come. If there was any possibility of a team being persuaded to tour, it is unlikely it will agree to venture in after the description given by Messrs Broad, Taufel and Davis of failed security and the sheer human horror of the situation. The ICC match referee in fact himself emphasized that there should be no tours to Pakistan for some time. He also suggested the ICC set up a committee of some kind to assess security and advise teams as to safety issues. This seems set to happen.Pakistan, for the present, must give up complaining. The options available in such a situation must become a key priority for the PCB. Alternatives may well have to be overseas but the PCB will also need to keep interest alive at home; ways to liven up the game at the domestic level need to be reconsidered with renewed urgency. South Africa was able to keep the cricketing vigour alive through a 20-year sporting isolation. The changed situation brings fresh challenges and our cricket chiefs must demonstrate they are capable of meeting them.

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