Pietersen stands up to India terror

2008-12-05 00:00

Terrorists deal in terror. Their single aim is to terrorise people into changing their behaviour, their political opinions and their travel plans.

Recent historical evidence suggests this strategy is notably effective when used against American air travellers, the Spanish electorate and international cricketers and yet, curiously, wonderfully, it still appears almost completely futile when deployed against rank-and-file Englishmen.

In August 2001, the global airline industry was offering 90,1 million available seats per month.

After the terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington DC and Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001, millions of air travellers were literally terrorised into cancelling their tickets and staying at home. As a result, four international airlines went out of business and, by November 2001, global supply was cut to 67,5 million seats.

On the morning of March 11, 2004, polls showed the Partido Popular (PP) heading for a comfortable victory in the Spanish general election, to be held three days later. Then, a series of co-ordinated bombings on the Madrid commuter train network killed 191 people and injured 1 755 others, terrorising millions of Spaniards into switching their votes and electing the anti-Iraq war Socialist party led by Jose Zapatero.

On November 26 this year, cricketers around the world were preparing to fly to India to play in the inaugural Champions League, a tournament offering prize money ranging from a minimum R300 000 per player to R1,2 million for each member of the winning team. Then, extremists wielding AK47s and bombs, attacked various sites in Mumbai, killing 179 people, and within hours the terrorised cricketers had decided to stay at home.

The England cricket team, trailing 5-0 in a seven-match ODI series against India, headed for the airport and flew home, and it was generally assumed they would not return for a two-Test series, due to start in Chennai next Thursday. Former player Dominic Cork said he had spoken to five of the side and reported they were still ‘traumatised’ by images of the atrocities broadcast on Indian television, which had been “10 times worse” than anything shown on more sensitive networks elsewhere. Even the resilient English, it seemed, would buckle and be terrorised.

In fact, they have not. Led by Kevin Pietersen, the squad flew from London to Abu Dhabi on Thursday for an en route training camp and, pending a final security report tomorrow evening, will travel to India and take the field in Chennai.

Under banner headlines, the captain was quoted as saying: “It’s fantastic the guys want to go and rub shoulders together with India at a time of need … it’s a huge step by this England team to jump on the plane, and go and do the business.” Reports said the retreaded South African had telephoned each of his players and cajoled them into making a ‘collective’ decision.

Such leadership revives the spirit of Winston Churchill’s speech to the Canadian parliament on December 30, 1941, during the darkest days of World War 2. The war-time leader said: “When I warned the French that Britain would fight on alone whatever they did, their generals told their prime minister and his divided cabinet, that ‘in three weeks, England will have her neck wrung like a chicken’ … Some chicken! Some neck!”

Pietersen’s response has been truly Churchillian.

When high-profile sportsmen allow themselves to be terrorised, the terrorists win. In reality, the statistical chances of a cricketer being killed or injured in a terrorist outrage in India are significantly less than the chances of the same individual being killed or injured in a motor accident at home. Yes, there is a risk in going to India. Yes, there is a risk in driving a car.

The difference is that terrorist incidents are extensively and vividly reported by 24-hour TV news networks, effectively fuelling a global sense of horror and fear, while being killed in a car crash still earns barely a three-line report. It is a fact: Al-Qaeda and their like are effectively aided and abetted in their evil ambitions by CNN, Fox News, Sky News etc.

More people need to stand firm in the face of terror. These words are not easy to write but, it’s true … more people need to follow the example set by Kevin Pietersen.

•Edward Griffiths is a journalist, author and former CEO of SA Rugby. www.onesmallvoice.co.za.

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