Stadiums stand empty in isolated Pakistan

Karachi's National Stadium was once a dusty, sweaty hell for visiting cricketers, a cauldron of heat and noise where Pakistan went unbeaten in Tests for more than 45 years.

But now, three years after international sides stopped coming to the country in the wake of a deadly militant attack on a Sri Lankan team bus, the stands are silent, deserted and rusting with disuse.

It is a scene repeated in stadiums across Pakistan. Since the gun attack in Lahore, the country has not hosted a full international in any sport, barring a short series of hockey friendlies against lowly China.

Last month it organised a visit by the Bangladesh cricket team, only to have it postponed a week later over security fears, to the dismay of Pakistani officials.

And Pakistan's announcement on Wednesday that Canada may visit this year was quickly played down by Cricket Canada chief Doug Hannum, who called it a "potential tour" and said no formal talks had taken place.

Pakistan's 180 million people are well known for being cricket-mad but the nation also boasts a proud history in field hockey -- three Olympic golds, four World Cups and three Champions Trophies -- and squash, where the Khans, Jansher and Jahangir, ruled the world in the 1980s and 1990s.

In 1994 Pakistan even boasted the unique distinction of being world champions in cricket, hockey and squash at the same time.

Even the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US did not deter foreign teams: Pakistan hosted arch-rivals India -- considered the biggest target for militants -- for cricket tours in 2004 and 2006, and staged the World Open squash tournament in 2003 and Champions Trophy hockey in 2004.

But when gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan team bus during the third cricket Test in Lahore in March 2009, killing eight people and wounding seven players, Pakistan was cast into sporting purdah.

It was no longer true that sports were not a target for militants and ever since, teams have been unwilling to come.

For three years, Pakistan have held their "home" cricket series in neutral countries, mostly the United Arab Emirates. All their Davis Cup tennis matches and hockey fixtures have been played away from home.

Ehsan Mani, former president of the International Cricket Council (ICC), believes the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) are going the wrong way about seeking to end their isolation.

"The Bangladesh team not coming to Pakistan is a setback," Mani said. "But I would say that the PCB's strategy is totally wrong as they are, like, begging teams to come, which is wrong."

Mani said Pakistan needs to get the ICC to set security guidelines. But he added that even if Bangladesh had come, others were not likely to follow.

"I can't speculate whether Bangladesh Cricket Board wanted to send the team or not, but Bangladesh's visit would not have convinced England or Australia," he said.

The situation means talented young players like Umar Akmal, Azhar Ali, Wahab Riaz and Asad Shafiq -- who between them have 50 Test caps, 95 one-day and 39 Twenty20 internationals -- have yet to play before their home crowds.

But most dangerous are the financial implications.

"PCB would feel the financial pinch soon," Tauqir Zia, a former PCB chairman, told AFP. "Their expenses per year are 1.6 billion rupees ($17.6 million) and this cannot be borne until you earn by hosting cricket. Otherwise you have to go to the ICC and ask for funds."

Hockey survives on millions of rupees in government grants, while football is supported by international body FIFA through the Goal development scheme.

For former Pakistani Test fast bowler Jalal-ud-Din, the key to Pakistan coming in from the cold is wooing the old enemy next door: India.

"Cricket revival, I believe, is related to India because they are the super powers," he said. "PCB must form a team of players and diplomats and send it to various countries in order to convince them to tour."

Jalal also blamed poor governance in the PCB, saying that under former chairman Ijaz Butt "our relationship with other countries worsened and we are paying for that".

When a spot-fixing scandal broke during Pakistan's disastrous 2010 tour of England, Butt incensed the hosts by accusing them of throwing a one-day international at the Oval. He later apologised and retracted the allegation.

With Pakistan's security situation still unstable, it seems the wait for top-level international competition will go on, both for the country's sports fans and its under-used stadiums.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • ‘Taklub’ wins jury prize in Cannes
    ‘Taklub’ wins jury prize in Cannes

    The Yolanda-inspired film “Taklub” has won a special award at the Cannes Film Festival in France. The advocacy film, which had a successful premiere last Tuesday under the festival’s Un Certain Regard section, is directed by 2009 Cannes best director Brillante Mendoza and top-billed by Nora Aunor. The award cited the film’s sensitive portrayal of individuals and communities in the Philippines fighting to continue living despite natural disasters exposing them to suffering and death. …

  • Orphan tops chemical engineering board exam
    Orphan tops chemical engineering board exam

    A 21-year-old orphan from Capiz topped the chemical engineering board examinations held this month. Remington Salaya, a cum laude graduate of the Central Philippine University in Iloilo, ranked first in the board examinations with a score of 83.30 percent. Out of 405 chemical engineering graduates who took the exam in mid-May, 239 passed. …

  • A sunset party for APEC delegates
    A sunset party for APEC delegates

    Greeted by the beat of Ati-atihan drummers, delegates of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation trade ministers meeting enjoyed a welcome dinner and cultural presentation at sunset yesterday. Dubbed FuntaSea, Shangri-La Boracay Resort and Spa’s Banyugan Beach was transformed into a fantasy island, complete with mermaids, fire dancers, and choreographed paraws (sailboat) representing the best of Boracay. With APEC meetings being held all over the Philippines, each presentation is conceptualized …

  • UN chief urges peaceful solution of sea dispute
    UN chief urges peaceful solution of sea dispute

    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Friday for a peaceful solution to territorial disputes in the South China Sea, where China’s increased assertiveness has alarmed its smaller neighbors. In Manila, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. appealed to China to respect various international agreements on freedom of navigation and aviation. Coloma’s call came in the wake of an incident Wednesday where Chinese naval forces warned a US …

  • Phl seeks transparency, inclusivity in Asean-China Center
    Phl seeks transparency, inclusivity in Asean-China Center

    Philippine Ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Elizabeth Buensuceso has called on participants of the ASEAN-China Center (ACC) brainstorming session to vigorously work on promoting ASEAN-China relations under the principles of inclusivity, transparency and centrality. The brainstorming session, attended by the ACC’s joint council and joint executive board members, also involved a midterm review of ACC’s work since its establishment in 2011. The ACC aims to promote …

  • Lebanon tightens rules on HSW repatriation
    Lebanon tightens rules on HSW repatriation

    Distressed Filipino domestic helpers in Lebanon may find it more difficult to return home. The government of Lebanon has tightened the rules on repatriation of distressed household service workers (HSWs), Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz reported yesterday. Citing a report from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO), Baldoz said the Lebanese government opted to re-impose a previous policy requiring investigation into every case of HSWs who ran away from their employers and sought …

  • Army execs face attrition over promotion quota
    Army execs face attrition over promotion quota

    Dozens of Philippine Army officials may be removed from the service due to a promotion quota system in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, according to AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang. In a letter to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, he requested that the 30 percent promotion quota – which means that only 30 percent of those eligible for promotion in a given year will actually be promoted – in the Army be raised to 50 percent. Under the military’s attrition law, middle-grade officers …

  • Philippines backs support for small enterprises at APEC meet

    MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines' top trade official on Saturday called for support for the integration of micro, small and medium enterprises in global trade, which he said would help reduce poverty and inequality in the Asia-Pacific region. …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options