The convoluted paradigm of international politics, especially when it is infused with a sacred measure of nationalism, has a peculiar way of permeating our cultural and apolitical activities. In most instances, the overarching cadence of national history lends its colors to activities that are ostensibly divorced from the currents of international power politics. And in this flux, everyday symbols of triumph and tribulations often become the first casualty.

In one of the most heartbreaking manifestations of this phenomenon, cricket in Pakistan is gasping for breath in its silent isolation.

Over the past decade, a proud Pakistani cricket history (spanning a legacy of legends) has been viewed through the lens of a religiously militant culture. What was at first just an ideological threat (enough to dissuade teams like Australia from visiting Pakistan), became a tangible nightmare one Tuesday morning in 2009, during Sri Lanka’s tour of Pakistan. And in its shadow, an entire generation of young cricket fanatics have been deprived of the exhilaration of sitting in Fazal Mahmood Enclosure.

In the years that followed, a virtual cricketing apartheid was imposed against this beautiful sport being played on our soil. And the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), the government, and the nation had no coherent response to the international boycott; except, of course, to play our home-series in UAE. During this time, Pakistan’s arch-rival, India, saw an unprecedented growth in its cricketing influence, as well as financial influx, propelling it into the league of self-proclaimed ‘Big Three’ (which title has nothing to do with cricket performance, and only with the amount of money/influence that the respective cricket board has). And finally, the triumph of IPL (where Pakistani players are not invited to play) eclipsed the cricketing culture of a bygone era.

In this paradigm, Pakistan has had trouble clawing its way out of isolationist darkness, and into the light of international cricket. The tour of Zimbabwe was a tremendous landmark in this regard, but not enough to trigger the re-entry of international cricket in Pakistan. India, as part of its overall geopolitical rivalry with Pakistan, took advantage (orchestrated?) the banishment of cricket from Pakistani soil, and positioned itself as the prime venue for cricket in South Asia.

Simultaneously, based on capricious objections to some of Pakistan’s most prolific spinners, who were then made to review their bowling actions in testing facilities located within India (which assess the players through non-transparent procedures), Pakistan cricket was delivered debilitating blows. And, of course, our team members played their part in pushing the national reputation closer to the cliff through spot-fixing scandals (kuch shehr de lok vi zaalim sann, kuch sanu maran da shauk vi si).

This weaning of Pakistan’s international cricketing influence and the simultaneous rise of Indian cricket power, has reached such boorish friction that, for the first time in bilateral history, the BCCI has felt comfortable reneging on its commitment to play six different series with Pakistan (between 2015 and 2023), four of which were to be played at a venue of Pakistan’s choice. To add insult to injury, last month, when the Chairman of PCB, went to India to discuss the modalities, BCCI Chief refused to meet him, partly under pressure from secular India’s Shiv Sena fanatics. In the days that followed, Pakistani commentators, former cricketers, and an ICC umpire, were asked to leave Indian soil because of sectarian threat from secular India’s Hindu militants.

In the aftermath, amidst offers by India to play Pakistan’s ‘home series’ on Indian soil, Pakistan is faced with a rather simplistic choice: to give-in to the nefarious pressure tactics of India and surrender all autonomy at the altar of a bigoted cricketing power, or alternatively to assert its national pride by rejecting discrimination in the international sporting arena.

While the decision is being contemplated in PCB’s corridors of power as well as the Federal Government, in essence, there is not much of a choice; there is only one answer, one decision, that any self-respecting nation would make. It is time for PCB to refuse whatever meager compromise BCCI offers, and demand that our cricketing board as well as national players be treated at par with other nations.

The thing about pride and swagger, which is the hallmark of Indian cricket these days, is that it is self-defeating. Pride has a hypnotic way of deluding the wise, and compelling mistakes that our deemed unforgivable in the annals of history. As soon as any person, body, or nation, becomes convinced of its own greatness and invincibility, the divine arc of history has its ways of leveling the playing fields.

India and the BCCI would do well to remember that less than half a century ago, all international cricket teams were deemed second-tier in a sport that was exclusively the dominion of English and Australian cricketers. A little over two decades ago, South Africa faced a cricketing apartheid based on their (then) board’s contempt for black-cricketers. And within a few decades, the bigoted empires of the yesteryears were made to kneel at the feet of a new cricketing world order.

These are tough times for Pakistan, for the people as well as their team. But this time will not last forever. As we continue to make gains in our war against terror, and reclaim our place in the comity of civilized nations, our days of cricketing glory, of packed stadiums and international visitors, will return once again. And when that happens, the people of this country will remember how we were treated in our days of darkness; a memory that will last through generations.

Till then, the PCB should make the only rightful choice available to it – participate in international cricket on terms that are acceptable to our national spirit, and to not to settle for an inch less. In the fierce belief that there will be dawn at the end of this night.

n The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore. He has

a Masters in Constitutional Law from Harvard

Law School.