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Double standards?
by Gulu Ezekiel
Jun 30, 2007
Will the BCCI cancel the tour of England on security grounds after the bomb scare in London on Friday and the abortive car bomb attack at Glasgow airport on Saturday? The question is rhetorical, really. The thought would never have crossed their minds, despite the Indian team being currently in Belfast.

On the other hand, after the 9/11 attacks in the United States in 2001, we had the ridiculous situation where some of the English players who were due to tour later that year expressed their apprehensions because India is situated close to Afghanistan! Of course there have been a few occasions in the recent past in both Pakistan and Sri Lanka where foreign teams have fled after terrorist bomb attacks.

This is not to condemn their decisions—every team and every player has to make a call in such a scary scenario and it is easy for the non-player to sit in judgment. After all, we are not the ones likely to be targeted. I have often heard fellow-journalists blithely stated that sportspersons have never been targets of attacks. Conveniently forgetting in the bargain the horrors of the 1972 Munich Olympics.

At this time though my mind goes back to the stormy run-up to the 1996 Wills World Cup jointly hosted by India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Barely a fortnight before the start, a horrific bomb blast in the centre of Colombo killed scores of civilians. The Australian and West Indian boards promptly announced they would refuse to play their matches against Sri Lanka in the capital, a decision condemned by former Australian captain Ian Chappell.

It may be recalled that the three Asian nations had won their hosting right after a very bitter ICC meeting in London in 1993 with England, New Zealand, Australia and the West Indies opposing the bid. Feelings were still raw in 1996 and the cricket world came very close to a split with the boycott call. The ICC chairman at the time was the late West Indian batting great Clyde Walcott and he presented a pathetic picture as the World Cup appeared spiraling out of control even before it had begun.

The press conference a couple of days before the opening ceremony at Calcutta had a surreal air about it. On one side of the table was Walcott putting up a stout defence of Australia and the West Indies on behalf of the ICC. On the side were the three representatives of the host nations bitterly attacking them. The night before an IRA bomb had gone off in London and I could not resist jumping to my feet and asking Jagmohan Dalmiya and Arif Ali Abassi of the PCB if the Indian and Pakistan teams which were due to tour England that year had any thought off calling it off on “security grounds.” It was of course a provocative question and was just the spark needed to light Dalmiya’s fuse. I still recall the broad grin that spread across his face as I finished my question. Even as an English journalist cursed me under his breath for having the temerity to make such an odious comparison, the-then BCCI secretary--backed by his Pak counterpart-- launched into a long-winded explanation of how India were too sporting to contemplate such a move. The point had been made.

In 2005 the Australians were engaged in the opening Test at Lord’s when the deadly mass transport bombings struck London. Yet they stayed on and only Jason Gillespie made some noises after a similar attack was foiled a couple of weeks later. Captain Ricky Ponting though let the cat out of the bag in his tour book later that year—if it had been a ‘Third World’ country he admitted, they would have been on the next plane home. ‘Nuff said!

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