It was only a few months back that the cricket fraternity in Bangladesh had overwhelming enthusiasm about their team touring Pakistan in April. Since no foreign team had visited Pakistan after a terrorist attack on Sri Lanka team in March 2009, the Bangladesh team wanted to win the laurels by breaking the jinx and conveying a message to the cricket world that ‘Pakistan was a safe country for the foreign teams to visit’. The efforts on both sides reached the extent that a security mission led by Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) President Mustafa Kamal visited Pakistan, went around the match venues and expressed complete satisfaction about security and other aspects of the proposed tour. They also met Interior Minister Rahman Malik who gave them full assurance of providing the requisite security. Fully satisfied with security measures and other arrangements they agreed to play matches at Lahore and Karachi.      

With the Bangladesh team’s projected tour the cricket lovers were overjoyed to feel that international cricket was returning to Pakistan after a lapse of three years. A sudden twist in their attitude, however, dismayed the people of Pakistan. It was like a bolt from the blue for the cricket lovers of Pakistan who had planned not only to throng the match venues with their presence but also celebrate the event like a festival. The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) later proposed to play the series on a neutral venue which the PCB ruled out for not being cost effective. The BCB thus deferred their decision of sending team to Pakistan until the ICC board meeting scheduled to take place in Dubai on 14-16 April. I think this is more of a ruse. If the BCB was satisfied with our arrangements of the tour and the security measures, there was no need of referring the case to the ICC.

Despite all the exuberance shown by the Bangladesh’s cricket fraternity, the sudden ‘about turn’ especially taken after the Asia Cup finals indicates that they did not take defeat at the hands of Pakistan in good spirit. It is proved by the fact that the BCB lodged an appeal with the ACC that one of their batsmen was obstructed by a Pakistani bowler in the finals and asked for a reversal of the decision. The appeal was rejected by the ACC which perhaps disappointed them. Another reason may be that the BCB not having taken all its players in confidence, some of them are reluctant to undertake the tour. The cricket board is thus trying to take refuge behind the ICC’s inability to provide neutral umpires, match referees and other officials for the series. 

Over and above every thing else the Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajid gave a frivolous statement that the ISI elements were responsible for the Asia Cup fiasco. Talking to a local daily Amardesh she said that ‘her country could win the finals of Asia Cup if lovers of ISI and Pakistan did not come to stadium to witness the match’. This was a hint to the presence of opposition leader Khalida Zia who had come to witness the match. All these factors combined together brought an abrupt change in Bangladesh’s attitude. Whatever the ICC’s decision and Bangladesh’s reaction to the issue may be, I am sure Pakistan would be too pleased to host the Bangladesh team according to the matches programme mutually revised by the two boards.

RAFI NASIM,

Lahore, April 11.