Attacks made year most unforgettable: Akram

The attack on the touring Sri Lankan team decimated Pakistan's international cricket and made 2009 one of the worst years, Wasim Akram said.

updated: December 31, 2009 13:56 IST
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The attack on the touring Sri Lankan team decimated Pakistan's international cricket and made 2009 one of the worst years for a sport followed by millions, former captain Wasim Akram said on Thursday.

"Attacks on the Sri Lankan team blew away our cricket," Wasim told AFP of the shocking gun and grenade assault on the scheduled third day of the second Test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka in Lahore last March.

"They made the year the most unforgettable in our history," he added.

The brazen attacks, which left eight people dead besides injuring seven Sri Lankan players and their assistant coach, put paid to Pakistan's chances of hosting any international cricket in the near future.

Following the attacks, the International Cricket Council (ICC), which had already shifted the Champions Trophy out of Pakistan in early 2009, also took away the 14 matches Pakistan was due to host in the 2011 World Cup.

Pakistan protested, threatened legal action and sought to hold its World Cup games in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), but the ICC was unmoved as co-hosts India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh insisted it was a South Asia tournament.

Pakistan's matches were distributed among the other three hosts in a deal which will give Pakistan financial compensation.

With teams reluctant to tour the troubled nation because of concerns over militants attacks, Pakistan was forced to play Australia and New Zealand on the neutral territory of the UAE.

Even Zimbabwe refused to send a Under-19 team to Pakistan over security fears.

Wasim said Pakistan needs to find a permanent away venue to overcome financial losses.

"Because of teams not willing to tour Pakistan, our team has played very little cricket and we now need to find a permanent away venue to not only give our players some cricket, but also to overcome financial losses," said Wasim.

Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ijaz Butt this month estimated annual losses of 71 percent on television rights (worth 140.5 million dollars for five years).

"We have been incurring 71 percent annual losses and have to bear total losses of 125 million dollars since teams began refusing to tour the country in 2008, including 40 million dollars when India cancelled a series," said Butt.

New Delhi refused to let its cricket team tour Pakistan in the wake of strained realtions between the two nations following attacks on Mumbai in November 2008. India blamed militants based in Pakistan for the attacks.

Wasim urged the ICC and India to support Pakistan cricket.

"Pakistan needs support from the cricket world in general and from India in particular, otherwise we will suffer badly and play average cricket as we did in 2009," said Wasim.

The only bright spot for Pakistan cricket in the year was when Younus Khan led the country to the World Twenty20 title in England in June.

"Pakistan played average cricket throughout the year but their World Twenty20 success gave fans enough tonic to keep their interest in the sport alive, " said Wasim.