By Amrut Thobbi
If injustice is happening to your neighbor and you can sleep, wait for your turn. You are next - Anonymous
Two blows struck Asian cricket on Tuesday evening. One was the much-expected guilty verdict of tainted Pakistan cricketers Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif. The other blow was in the form of a financial crisis that hit the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC). Critics had seen it coming for a while, but both the news reports are bitter facts for the passionate fans of the two countries to swallow.
These news reports are depressing for a cricket enthusiast, keeping in mind that both nations have a rich cricketing history. Sri Lanka shocked the cricketing world by winning the 1996 World Cup while Pakistan won the coveted trophy in the 1992 edition. Both countries have been powerhouses in cricket world. Pakistan has produced some terrifying pacemen like Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, has produced cricketers who have redefined the game, especially one-day cricket. The ballistic batting of openers Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana tearing bowlers apart in first 15 overs, a concept novel in those days, while Muttiah Muralitharan and Lasith Malinga has provided much class and colour to the game.
But the fate of two countries has changed in recent times. The report of three Pakistan cricketers proved guilty of spot-fixing, and few more cricketers under suspicion, has heightened Pakistan’s cricketing mess. Adding to the woes, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has been struggling with financial losses as none of the Test playing countries have visited its shores for last two years following a terrorist attack on the touring Sri Lankan team in 2009.
Sri Lanka, too, has been suffering from financial losses, but on-field losses must be hurting them more. Losing the World Cup final to Indian few months ago sure would have been shattering, but losing a Test series to a young Australian team at home and now struggling against a reviving Pakistan team in Dubai must be more painful for Sri Lanka as once they were virtually unbeatable in the subcontinent when the Muralitharans, the Jayasuriyas, the Ranatungas formed the crux of the team. Truth be said, there were people like Arjuna Ranatunga who had feared the worst for Sri Lanka.
Located geographically in between these two countries, and located politically at the heart of the cricket world is India, whose apex cricketing body – the Board of Control for Cricket in India - is the most powerful and most prosperous in the world. Its cricket team has been creating history for last few years. India became the first country to win the World Cup in its own backyard along with the pride of being the No.1 Test team in the world for two years.
India have the cricketing and financial clout and the BCCI could easily bail out its two cricketing neighbours out of the predicaments they find themselves in. For starters, BCCI should confirm the proposed bilateral series with Pakistan in March next year. This will come as a breather for PCB whose primary requirement is financial one and a bilateral series with India would be the ideal lifeline.
Also, the BCCI can and should allow its players to participate in the Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL) which was supposedly postponed to 2012 due to BCCI’s uneasiness with the organisers of the event. The BCCI, apparently, was unhappy with the SLPL being organised by Sri Lankan Cricket’s (SLC) sponsors and not by SLC, and hence had not allowed its players to take part in the league. If BCCI resolves this issue, it can assist the SLC financially as stars from Indian team and other countries will surely draw large crowds into the tournament.
The primary reason for BCCI to lend a hand to PCB and SLC is that problems in Sri Lanka and Pakistan cricket will not help Indian cricket given the fact that the cricketing growth of India has much to do with bilateral tours with both Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
To twist the quote at the start of the article, if our neighbour’s house is on fire and we do nothing about it, it could be our next. Pakistan and Sri Lankan cricket is on fire and India are in a position to rescue its neighbours – and they should.
(Amrut Thobbi, an engineering graduate now pursuing Masters in journalism, is an ardent cricket fan. His passion for writing inspired him to give up a sales and marketing job, which he does not regret. By writing on cricket, he wants to relive his dream of becoming a cricketer. He has also worked as a freelance writer in education and technology sectors)