Syed Ali Zia Jaffery |
Former Kiwi fast-bowler and currently one of the darlings of cricket watchers, Danny Morrison was shouting, chirping and “revving it up” in the commentary box at the Gaddafi Stadium Lahore on Sunday. Yes, Danny as the author calls him so nonchalantly, dazzled Lahore on a historic Sunday. But so did the bunch of brave Srilankans.
History was made when the Perera-led Srilankan cricket team crossed the Liberty roundabout on Sunday, a place where heroes for many, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, and others escaped death after they were hit by bullets in a brazen ambush on 3rd March 2009. The Lankans lions unsurprisingly lost the match but won hearts and received accolades galore_ a huge milestone was crossed in the revival of international cricket in Pakistan.
Let the geopolitical analyst side of the author take over his love for the great game of cricket because the benefits of the colossal event on Sunday go beyond the field of cricket. The gradual return of cricket started off with a brief tour by the Zimbabwean cricket team in 2015 but it was not until the finale of the Pakistan Super League(PSL) in Lahore in March this year that hopes of the complete return of international cricket rose. A star-studded World XI side partook in the Independence Cup in Lahore last month. The likes of Hashim Amla, Darren Sammy and Faf du Plessis left the heart of Pakistan with a desire to come back.
Those were the most delightful and positive optics coming out from a country who is being chastised for harboring terrorists and proliferating terrorism. Seen as a phenomenon to pick Pakistan on in the simmering great game in the region, Delhi, Kabul, and Washington are continuing with their diatribes against Pakistani counter and antiterrorism efforts. However, the improvement in the country’s security profile is primarily a result of successful CTMILOPS which dispossessed, to a greater extent, the enemy from its center of gravity.
While the return of the World XI and especially the once-wounded Srilankan team sends the right message_Pakistan 1-terrorism 0, the hard-security approach visibly touted on television channels compel international watchers to question whether the country is safe or not. Though there is merit in this argument, layered security, additional military and paramilitary deployment and air surveillance are necessary and somewhat prudent on part of the authorities.
Besides, the author takes serious exceptions to Sethi’s views about the region, his understanding of war and history.
It is noteworthy to mention that the military plank of counterterrorism is in its final stages, the remnants will try to inflict such a damage which politically suits the miscreants. Terrorists thrive on the number of viewers than the body count. Ideally, if international teams are left at the mercy of light security, terrorists will find disrupting the event as tactically feasible, politically rewarding and strategically effective.
So kudos to the Pakistan Cricket Board and to the man behind the return of international cricket in Pakistan, Najam Sethi. Before the author goes on to commend the 69-year old Cambridge graduate, let him iterate a few things. Sethi’s tiff with one of the author’s heroes, Imran Khan, and his fondness for the PML-N do not go down well. Also, the author considers him a henchman of the Sharif family who was gifted overriding control of the PCB because of his alleged role in tinkering with the results as caretaker chief minister of Punjab during the 2013 elections. Besides, the author takes serious exceptions to Sethi’s views about the region, his understanding of war and history.
That said, the author concedes a few things. It is his singular focus, clear-headedness, and scholarly skills which paved the way for the return of international cricket in the country.
The author got a chance to interact with the man himself some six months after the elections, the very day when Pakistan defeated South Africa to clinch its first ODI series in that country. A conversation which started with a discussion on the then newly-released book ” History of the Punjab” by Gandhi’s grandson ended with him miffing the author further by saying that he won’t make Afridi as the skipper for the World Cup. He also mentioned in front of a group of students and professors that the return of cricket is one of his prime aims.
That said, the author concedes a few things. It is his singular focus, clear-headedness, and scholarly skills which paved the way for the return of international cricket in the country. Being the force behind the PSL, Sethi focused his energies on two things: building the PSL as a brand and cajoling international stars to grace Pakistan with their presence. While cricket-legend Imran Khan is right in opposing his friend-turned-foe, him laughing off at the quality of players, security arrangements and refusing to attend matches does not suit the lofty stature of the man.
Love him or hate him, the 69-year old has taken cogent, well-thought-out and viable steps to ensure that fans are no more deprived of cricket in the country. Well done!
By no means has Sethi improved the state of cricket in the country but a debate on that merits another piece.Sethi and his pals, known for basing their opinions on unsubstantiated and concocted stories and reporting, take a lot of credit for Pakistan’s recent success at the Champions Trophy while taking jibes at Khan. Reflecting their lack of cricketing acumen, they do not fathom that the PCB has very little to do with wins and losses; instead, it is responsible for the development of the game and the brand value.
Full marks to Sethi for taking concrete steps for building the brand value of the PSL. Love him or hate him, the 69-year old has taken cogent, well-thought-out and viable steps to ensure that fans are no more deprived of cricket in the country. Well done! The author, however, promises to give befitting rejoinders to his pieces in The Friday Times.
Syed Ali Zia Jaffery is a Research Analyst and Sub Editor at Global Village Space.He frequently writes on defense and strategic affairs for various national and international platforms. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.