June 06, 2020
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Negative Imagining

Australia should have padded up and kept their eyes on the cherry

Negative Imagining
A cricket world cup hosted by Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka is bound to be a remarkable experience for everyone who can be in the subcontinent when it is played, because it is impossible to describe to people around the world how one-day cricket and world cups in particular consume the attention of all who live in these host countries. Cricket even brings the countries together when politically and racially they are often aggressively opposed to each other.

India and Pakistan certainly went to the aid of Sri Lanka by sending a combined cricket side to play in Colombo after both Australia and West Indies withdrew for fear of their players' safety. It is not for me to guess what threats came Australia's way but I cannot imagine that cricket was ever considered a serious target for terrorism. Negative imaginings can build up in some players' minds.

I recall David Gower's England team which toured India in 1981 being so upset at the assassination in Bombay of the British Deputy High Commissioner, at whose home they had been the evening before, that many of the team and a lot of the media group wanted to return home immediately. I recall being involved in talks with the English management. Happily, England stayed and won a fine series, albeit losing the Bombay Test. Black September threats followed my own team through India after the murders at the Munich Olympics in 1972. We stayed on.

I am not suggesting that previous examples of cricket under threat compare with the present one which apparently afflicts the Australians and West Indies, but I believe that, given the highest possible safety arrangements, both should have kept the show on the road. The safest place in Sri Lanka after the bomb atrocity in Colombo was Colombo. Worrying too is the legacy of giving in to threats. Has cricket now become a legitimate target ofterrorists who want to undermine the Sri Lankan country, or others for that matter?

This is only a personal view and, Australians might say, an easy one to hatch after the event, especially when England and Co. are not scheduled to go to the danger areas at all.

Whichever way you see it, all eyes look to the International Cricket Council to work out what to do if it happens again. The rights of the World Cup will be held by the ICC after this time, but I cannot imagine all the money going into its coffers: presumably there must be a serious spin-off for the host countries. Perhaps the allocation of future venues can be achieved with less acrimony than there has been in the past.

The work of the ICC is probably the most important ahead of the game, as international competition proliferates. The early value of the work will be seen at ICC Trophy level and among the wider interests of the game internationally, an area in which ICC managing director David Richards is already moving stealthily.

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