New Delhi: We are living in an uncertain world. Just when cricket fans across the country were soaked in the euphoria that Team India's performance triggered, terrorists attacked Mumbai, the economic capital of India and left the whole nation shell-shocked. A thumping series win over Australia, retirements of two Biggies and crushing ODI victories against England - all these kept fans and the media quite worked up but one dreadful incident gave such a severe jolt that all this now look so small and so frivolous!
A country where cricket is a religion, where life stops when Team India marches towards victory, where streets erupt in celebrations when Men in Blue lift trophies, suffered an assault that has left a never healing wound in the hearts of all. The same city that came on to the streets to give a rousing welcome to our T20 World Cup heroes, burnt, bled, exploded and mourned the deaths of more than a hundred. And people across the nation shed tears along.
Not that terror attacks are something new in this country. India has endured many terror attacks, bomb blasts, lost many lives but none could match the magnitude of the Mumbai attacks. During the IPL earlier this year, Jaipur was rocked with serial blasts but the tournament continued. One can't underplay one incident but the Mumbai attacks have posed new challenges. We are fighting with the terrorism of one kind or the other everyday but this was by far the worst incident. While there are more sensible people to analyse the global and political repercussions, as a cricket follower one is concerned about the effect it would have on the game.
England cricketers declined to continue with the ongoing tour and left for their home in between. Not that it was the first occasion or they were wrong in doing so, but it was the first time Indian cricket took such a massive blow because of terrorism. The ODI series was truncated midway, the much-publicized and much-awaited Champions League Twenty20 got postponed, the India-England Test series is still doubtful but the biggest casualty has been the cricket's powerhouse's image as a safe destination.
Yes, we don't want to bow down to a group of fanatics but at the same time we can't be a foolhardy to risk the lives of the sportsmen, who know to battle it out only with bat and ball.
Australia, West Indies cancelled their tours to Pakistan on security grounds. Ours is not 'as turbulent a nation' but that does not justify the cause of cricket. The sub-continent psyche is much different from the psyche of the English or the Australians. That's why when a country like South Africa returned from Sri Lanka in 2006, India remained there to continue with the tour. We are living with terrorism everyday just because there is no way you can escape it.
No country is immune to this menace but the enormity of the sufferance is much lesser in these countries, and therefore, it's important that till the faith is reinstated, cricket should wait. Cricket should resume but only when players are convinced and willing. After all, cricket is pure joy and how can you enjoy when fear overshadows your movements and thought process. Also, everyone's aware of monetary opportunities that India offers in cricket but no amount of money is worth anybody's life.
Another situation that can be tricky for the BCCI is India's upcoming tour to Pakistan. The BCCI backed Pakistan's claim of hosting Australia but failed to cajole the Kangaroos. Now that reportedly some Indian seniors are not willing to tour the strife-torn country next month, the Indian cricket board will have to be intelligent in its dealing with the English and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). If England cancels the Test series, it will be a big blow for India and if the series goes ahead as per the schedule then that might add to the pressure that's building on to visit its neighbour.
Cricket (not just only cricket, all sports) is a uniting factor and to maintain its sanctity as one, it's better to wait till the situation returns to normal and the clouds of uncertainty over India's reputation as a safe host are cleared.