Cricket community quiet in the face of Pakistan’s calamity

2010-08-21 00:00

ALL things considered, Pakistan did wonderfully well to dismiss England cheaply in the first innings of the Oval Test match. Already doomed to lose the series and with captains passing through a revolving door Pakistan might easily have succumbed meekly. Instead they rallied. Great heavens, they even clutched a few catches in the cordon — a region previously populated entirely by butterfingers.

Admittedly it helped that modern batsmen grope like inebriated executives at a party. The skill of shouldering arms has been lost. Batsmen leaving balls alone in T20 are bound for the asylum and the strategy seldom finds favour even in 50 over capers. Accordingly, purveyors of outswing are rewarded as batsmen nibble away like journalists at a buffet.

Still these tourists have much on their minds. As if the countrymen had not suffered enough, the devastating floods in the northern regions have caused incalculable damage and taken thousands of lives. Although a reliable reckoning is well nigh impossible, it’s clear that millions of homes have been destroyed and that diseases associated with dirty water are destined to cause further anguish.

In short it is a calamity. Eventually governments and NGOs swung into action in a desperate attempt to rescue and revive. At such times politics is supposedly forgotten. The world is at its best when celebrating or mourning.All the more reason to regret the reluctance to build a mosque near the 9/11 site. Presumably the prevailing fast food outlets and night clubs are more respectful of the lost.

Evidently the world community is trying to ease the pain in Pakistan. But has the cricket community responded with the required vigour? Cricket rose to the occasion when the Tsunamis struck Galle and other Sri Lankan cities on that terrible Boxing Day. In a trice a fund-raising match was organised and staged before a packed house in Melbourne. All the leading players gave their services willingly. It was a warm occasion enjoyed by all parties. I cannot remember a single thing about the match, except the atmosphere in the ground.

Sport can reach beyond the mundane. When the Australians timidly withdrew from a World Cup match due to be played in Colombo, the other countries in the region combined to play an exhibition game designed as a show of support for a disappointed neighbour. Suddenly Indians and Pakistanis were playing in the same side, and without the rancour that so often affects relations. Here was sport accepting its role as a builder of bridges.

Yet, little has been heard about cricket assisting the agonised in Pakistan. No word has been heard about a special match or fee donations or prize money being collected or IPL teams putting copper in the pot or TV channels providing updates. English friends say the topic has hardly been raised in commentary.

Apart from the humanitarian aspect, it is a missed opportunity for cricket. Over the years Pakistan has contributed enormously to the game and remains one of its powerhouses. Indeed, it continues to contribute. Recently my club in England signed a Pakistani under 19 player and he brought along an Under 19 colleague; both have served with distinction. Many other clubs have similar stories to tell.

English cricket has also been considerably strengthened by the expatriate community. Pakistanis seem to have an extraordinary amount of talent for the game. Australia has just included Usman Khawaja in its ranks, a batsman of Pakistan origin and a popular and capable young man.

Is it too late for South Africa to organise a relief match? Or perhaps the IPL bonuses that have caused such a commotion can be thrown into the hat? Apparently the beneficiaries intend to give them back anyhow. It’s not right to pick and choose between disasters. Nor can an ancient and complex people be viewed solely through the prism of the Taliban.

Cricket needs to wake up. It’s time to be generous, time to organise something significant for suffering brethren in a far-off land.

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