New Zealand is a country that enjoys tremendous popularity amongst Pakistanis for their friendly and unbiased nature — a trait their Trans-Tasman counterparts lack. But the shock withdrawal minutes before the commencement of the most anticipated series of 2021 has left every Pakistani dumbfounded.
That they took this step despite assurances from Prime Minister Imran Khan to his counterpart Jacinda Ardern, on providing fool-proof Presidential-level security for the team as well as receiving clearance from New Zealand Cricket’s own security delegation, is baffling. But what can only be described as a bipolar moment from New Zealand, is a stark humiliating reminder for Pakistan on the long road to bringing cricket back.
Unilateral judgements based on flimsy intelligence seem to be a greater danger, as compared to sending players to participate in India’s IPL. So far India has seen a new strain emerge from its Territory (Delta) which has led to 444,278 deaths and an average of 30,000 cases emerging everyday.
When the world was in lockdown due to Covid and researchers were racing to finalise the vaccine, New Zealand decided to send six of their players to play in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Pakistan on the other hand, sent their players to tour New Zealand out of goodwill in December 2020, despite the mental toll of quarantine, affecting the players abilities to prepare for the series properly. This was heavily reflected in their below-par performance against New Zealand. But nonetheless, the greater financial interests of New Zealand Cricket were placed above the health and well-being of our players due to Covid, and look how we have been repaid.
Threats of intelligence against crickets is a bit rich coming from New Zealand, who needs to be reminded that Bangladeshi cricketers were almost made lambs to the slaughter, when Australian Terrorist Brenton Tarrant mercilessly killed Muslim worshippers in a Christchurch Mosque, back in 2019. The players were moments away from entering the premises when they were sent back, and had to duck for cover inside there team bus for eight to 10 minutes. But this attack did not stop the English Cricket Team, embarking on a tour just seven months later.
It seems the world moves on rather quickly without batting an eyelid unlike when terrorist attacks occur or even the culmination of a threat and Pakistan is banished to the oblivion. When the 9/11 attacks happened, it was the greatest intelligence failure by the world’s ‘sole-super power’ but despite the deaths of 3000 people, sporting events continued as if nothing happened. United States Grand Prix went ahead as scheduled on the 30th of September, the Chicago Marathon was held on the 7th of October, not to mention the New York City Marathon which occurred on the 3rd of November had 30,000 participants from all over the world who competed in front of 2 million spectators. Not one country objected or withdrew in 2002 based on America’s intelligence failures especially when the Winter Olympics were hosted in the month of February 2002; barely five months after the attacks. Instead, the world took a defiant stand against terror and threats of terrorism but that unity is noticeably absent when it comes to Pakistan.
Similarly, the Madrid Train bombings which killed 193 people took place during the 2004 Men’s Field Hockey Olympic Qualifier. Ironically, New Zealand played South Africa on the day of the bombings, as well as the following day, against Great Britain for the fifth position. Despite the threat of security due to another intelligence failure by a European agency, the tournament completed without any absence, evacuation or withdrawal from anyone including New Zealand.
When the 7/7 London Bombings occurred in 2005, the Ashes went ahead three weeks later on the 21st of July. Australians who are often the first to flee (in the case of Pakistan) were untroubled by the security failure of the British Intelligence especially with their inability to detect four suicide bomb blasts, which led to the deaths of 52 people and injured 700 Londoners.
The Madrid Train bombings killed 193 people during the 2004 Men’s Field Hockey Olympic Qualifier. Ironically, New Zealand played South Africa on the day of the bombings, as well as the following day, against Great Britain for the fifth position
No security clearance by a governing body was denied. No teams boycotted and no players were given the choice to choose if they wanted to tour or not; as is the case for visiting teams in Pakistan. So why the double standards?
Pakistan’s intelligence agency does not give ‘spur of the moment’ assessments regarding national security issues. The country has given the most in the War on Terror and has succeeded. Not much can be said about the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ that New Zealand was part of, where it failed in every metric in Afghanistan as well as its inability (like the others) to recognise the Taliban.
If this is retribution for Pakistan’s support for the Western world’s misadventure in Afghanistan, then clearly, the inability to read political history has transcended into the world of sports. When Pakistan Cricket was isolated in 2009, the country rose up to become the 2009 T20 World Cup Champions. Similarly it was crowned World Number One in tests in 2016 and winners of the Champions trophy in 2017. This was during a time when none of the big four test teams wanted to tour or play against the country.
This is a defining moment for the incoming PCB Chief Ramiz Raja and any willingness to play at a neutral venue will help to achieve what New Zealand has done today. And that is the renewing Pakistan Crickets pariah status. But despite New Zealand and eventually England and Australia’s reversal in touring the country, their distasteful double standards won’t deter Pakistan cricket!