It will be years before international cricket can be played again in Pakistan following the brazen attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore, the former chief of cricket’s world governing body said Wednesday.
Ehsan Mani, who was president of the International Cricket Council (ICC) from 2003 to 2006, also said the attack puts plans for the the 2011 World Cup — scheduled to be played in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and two other countries in the South Asia region — in doubt. Pakistani Mani, who served for seven years on his country’s national cricket board before taking over at the ICC, said Tuesday’s attack poses a “huge threat” to the subcontinent’s most favored sport. “This means we will not see international cricket being played in Pakistan for a number of years,” Mani told CNN’s World Sport. “That is the reality.” Gunmen opened fire on the Sri Lankan cricket team’s bus in Pakistan on Tuesday, wounding eight players and killing a driver and six Pakistani police officers. Mani said cricket is suffering from the effects of the war on terror, and Pakistan is also paying the price. Leading cricketing nations such as Australia, South Africa and India have been reluctant to tour Pakistan for many years because of security worries. John Emburey, a former England player and the current coach of the Ahmedabad Rockets in the Twenty20 Indian Cricket League, agreed that Tuesday’s attack was a “big worry” for touring teams. “It’s a little bit grim for Pakistan at the moment, not just for cricket but for all sport,” Emburey told CNN. The next cricket World Cup is due to be staged jointly in 2011 by Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. But all four countries have experienced violence recently, to the point that Mani said he doubts the showpiece event can go ahead as planned. “I would be surprised if it does take place there (in Pakistan), but I’ve got a bigger concern,” he said. “I think the whole of the subcontinent is going to be under pressure.” He cited last week’s mutiny in the Bangladeshi paramilitary that killed at least 73 people, including 53 army officers. The civil war in Sri Lanka has been going on since 1983 but has worsened recently in the country’s northeastern province. Last November’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, followed a series of bombings in Jaipur in May, while Indian Premier League cricket matches were taking place in the city. “You have to deal with the so-called war on terror on one side, which is fine — you take these people on head-on,” Mani said.
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“But without the long-term vision to see how this is going to unfold, cricket is just something which happens to be incidental to the bigger fight that’s going on in the subcontinent.” ICC president David Morgan said Tuesday that the board would meet in April to consider whether the World Cup will go ahead as planned in light of the attack, but he said he remained confident the subcontinent could still host the event. Cricket authorities have until 12 months before the start of the World Cup to firm up their plans, he said. On Wednesday, New Zealand cricket chief executive Justin Vaughan told Press Association that it is “highly unlikely” that the Black Caps will be touring Pakistan later this year but have delayed a final decision.
For his part, Mani said he is “absolutely certain” that cricket will eventually recover from these setbacks. “It’s just too strongly embedded in the life and soul of the people,” he added.