PSL in the crossfire between India and Pakistan

PSL in the crossfire between India and Pakistan
Escalating tensions between Pakistan and India has badly affected the country's biggest sports event HBL PSL (2019) as three matches, earlier scheduled to be played in Lahore, have now been shifted to Karachi.

 

Usama Virk

 



Tensions between Pakistan and India affect not just the business environment and stock exchanges of the two nuclear armed neighbours, they also disturb any and every sports event being planned out.

Though there is a long history of border skirmishes between the two, the events that have played out since February, when a suicide bomber killed 43 Indian paramilitary personnel in the Pulwama district of Kashmir have brought both the countries to the brink of war. Indian Air Force (IAF) violated the LOC and international borders when they entered Pakistan, claiming to have hit a terrorist training camp. In reality, they hit a few trees and one crow.

Pakistan retaliated by shooting down an IAF MiG and capturing its pilot. Since then, things seemed to have cooled down just a little bit. But this fictional ‘surgical strike’ combined with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s probable loss in the upcoming general elections have turned into a serious matter of concern for not only citizens but sports too.

How well does each Pakistani remember that terrorism deprived Pakistan of its favourite sport, cricket, for almost 10 years. In that decade, Pakistan’s iconic stadiums, sight of many records, stood decaying. Local fans waited in vain for a chance to cheer for their country in a home match. Players turned to UAE for their home venue, displaying skills in front of empty stands.

Finally, the darkness seems to be lifting. We are, once again, on the verge of international cricket returning to Pakistan.

And the Pakistan Super League is a vital part of making this dream possible.

Since 2016, when the first edition of the PSL took place, it has worked to convince international players and teams that Pakistan is a safe place to play cricket in. Step by slow step, detail by excruciating detail, the league has served to persuade all those outside that this nation deserves to watch their heroes play in front of roaring local spectators.

We are just days away from Pakistan Super League season 4 matches which are scheduled to be played in Pakistan. With the scenario of an India – Pakistan conflict, the future of these matches seemed in doubt. That the crisis might affect the PSL matches in Pakistan seemed like a real threat.

And, somehow, directly or indirectly it did.

The matches that were scheduled for Lahore have been transferred to Karachi due to logistic reasons, and it is being said, because the production team was not able to complete the due arrangements for the matches in Lahore. International players, whose presence is vital for reviving home series, now might not agree to come to Pakistan.

For starters, AB De Villiers, arguably the biggest name among the foreign players, has politely refused to come and play in Karachi. That is a grave dent to the already injured Lahore Qalandars fans. Although the recent situation has made it amply clear that our forces are ready to take on any challenge but international players and their families might find it difficult to make this decision. We have reports that Australian star all-rounder Shane Watson personally is ready to visit Pakistan but his family’s disapproval is making him hesitate, which is why it’s still uncertain that he will come or not.

Reports came earlier this week that PCB official Waseem Khan had important meetings with team owners and players to discuss the unfortunate possibility of refusal to play in Pakistan. Fortunately they received a positive response. Earlier, the Pakistan Cricket Board in a Press Conference denied that the news about PSL being rescheduled. They said that by the Grace of Allah, PSL will come to Pakistan as scheduled in Lahore and Karachi, along with the international players.

But on 3rd of March an announcement was made that PSL will be hosted by Karachi only. PCB, along with security agencies and LEAs, has completed its security and maintenance measures at the venue. Tickets for all the matches in Pakistan are already being sold out which shows that this nation cannot be held back by mere threats by a desperate egoistic politician in search of votes.

Perhaps Narendera Modi does not realize that border trouble does not only affect PSL but also the Indian Premiere League which is scheduled to start at the end of this month. As compared to the PSL, the IPL has a lot more investment at stake. There is a real possibility that it might get affected adversely too. As a sports fan, we don’t want that to happen, not even for our arch rivals.

Sanity must prevail and political ambitions must not be achieved at the cost of innocent lives or happiness of people not involved.

 

Usama Virk is a sports journalist associated with GNN. He tweets @BeingUsamaVirk