Isam Hanif Majeed
On 17th September 2021, a very strange incident took place. Pakistan and New Zealand were ready to lock horns in a bilateral cricket series consisting of eight matches. In the afternoon of the September 17th, a couple of hours before the teams were supposed to start boarding the team bus to leave for the cricket match, the New Zealand security manager made a shocking announcement stating that the New Zealand team would not be playing any game in the series. He further added that the Government of Pakistan should make immediate preparations for the swift departure of the New Zealand team.
The reason given for this unwarranted change of plans was a security threat to the New Zealand team. Ms.Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand spoke to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Imran Khan about the imminent threat. Mr. Imran Khan assured Ms. Ardern that there was no threat and that the team was given Presidential level security. Ms. Ardern refused to believe Pakistan’s Intelligence reports and ordered the team to depart Pakistan immediately. The Pakistan Cricket Board faced massive losses due to the sudden turn of events. The New Zealand security team on tour refused to enclose any details about the threat.
After 18 years the New Zealand cricket team toured Pakistan for a cricket series and departed without playing a game. The Pakistani public was extremely enthusiastic and passionate to see Pakistan and New Zealand play on Pakistani soil after almost two decades. In the last six years Zimbabwe, West Indies, Sri Lanka and South Africa have completed successful tours of Pakistan. All the teams were provided with high level security. The stage was set for New Zealand to play its part in the revival of cricket in Pakistan. Sadly, it never happened.
Due to the New Zealand team pulling out of the series, the future home tour of Pakistan against Australia is now in jeopardy too. Some similar events took place in the past, such as the Christchurch shooting.
On March 15 2019, an armed individual killed worshippers inside a mosque. The Bangladesh cricket team was there to pray the Jummah prayer, the team just managed to escape unharmed but there were other casualties and fatalities. Bangladesh continued their tour regardless and Pakistan also then toured New Zealand a few weeks later for a series.
Pakistan toured England in 2020 when the Corona virus was at its peak. No cricket team was willing to risk a foreign tour, yet Pakistan accepted England’s offer and toured England to play Test Matches and T20Is. The Pakistan team was asked to quarantine and stay in a bio-secure bubble for 2 months. Pakistan fulfilled all the safety requirements of the host nation. In response England cancelled it’s tour of Pakistan even after their security team gave the cricket board clearance. Many cricketers lashed out on both cricketing boards for stabbing Pakistan in the back. New Zealand and English cricketers were also seen supporting Pakistan and confirmed that they had no say in the cancelling of the tours.
In 1996 in a World Cup Semi Final between Sri Lanka and India taking place in Calcutta, the Indian fans set fire inside the stadium just when India started losing wickets and defeat looked on the cards. The match was awarded to Sri Lanka, but the post-match presentation took place as if nothing happened.
Even today teams tour, India regardless of such incidents. A few days ago during the women’s ODI series between England and New Zealand, the New Zealand team received a bomb threat. The match went on as planned and it was later said that the bomb threat wasn’t from a credible source.
Keeping all this in mind, the New Zealand team left Pakistan on the basis of an unconfirmed threat. They took this decision without the knowledge of the Pakistan Cricket Board. So far, the International Cricket Council hasn’t made any statements in light of this event. Will New Zealand be penalized for their act of cowardice, or will the ICC continue to ignore and sideline Pakistan like they have in the past? Should the world politics be a driving factor in sports too? Transparency in global affairs is on the decrease. We know that money plays another vital role in decision making. Only time will tell, which way the ball swings. Are we going to witness more darkness or is there any hope for light?