Damn Black Tuesday.
It has been 37 years since there has been a terrorist attack on ambassadors of sports and I have been stunned out of my belief that terrorists would not target sportspersons. I have advocated that when I have been asked if it is safe for cricket teams to tour Pakistan, Sri Lanka and, in the wake of the 26/11 attack on Mumbai, India.
For more than three and a half decades after the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, I have firmly believed that no terrorist organisation will want the adverse publicity that comes along with its action against a sports event or sportspersons. I have always cited my own happy experiences of touring Sri Lanka and Pakistan
Of course, there have been other instances of attacks on sportspersons – Monica Seles was stabbed by a Steffi Graf fan in 1993, a bomb blast at the Centennial Park in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympic Games (and I was not far from the scene) while Iraqi athletes and sports officials were persistent targets in 2006.
Yet, I kept insisting that sportspersons and sporting events were safe from terror attacks. Black Tuesday will change all that. The brazen bid on the lives of the Sri Lankan cricketers on the streets of Lahore leaves me stupefied and wondering if I have been naïve or foolish to think that terrorists will not want to target sportspersons
It is not just my perception that will change because of this experience. I shudder to think of how the Sri Lankan cricketers can have nightmares of what they have gone through. I wonder when cricket teams will visit Pakistan again, leaving the Pakistan Cricket Board – and perhaps the country itself – to find alternative revenue streams now.
Damn Black Tuesday. It will lead to a rethink on the ICC World Cup 2011, slated to be organised jointly by India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. We may end up seeing the event being taken out of the sub-continent altogether. You can expect India to fight against that from happening.
You can expect more layers of security when you go to big-ticket events like T20 games, including IPL, ODIs and Test matches. Given that there is talk of IPL 2009 being rescheduled, the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi will be one of the first such mega events where no compromises are made on the security of the sports community.
For the moment, I am grateful that the Sri Lankan team has not suffered any fatalities. The team bus driver Mehar Mohammed Khalil has to be thanked and praised for his calmness under incredible pressure and his presence of mind in driving the coach through the attack to the Gaddafi Stadium.
My prayers are with the cricket fraternity – Sri Lankan and Pakistani – and hope that God grants them the strength to overcome the impact of the tragedy and soon be able to regale us with their wonderful talent. My prayers are for the reserve umpire Ehsan Raza who is the most critically injured despite match referee Chris Broad’s bid to save him.
There is not much I can do now but pray.