When Pakistani terrorists in Lahore recently attacked the Sri Lankan national cricket team, it brought to light an old problem: international athletes aren’t safe in Pakistan. In recent years, Australia, India, and New Zealand (on two occasions) have all canceled cricket tours in Pakistan because of safety concerns. The usual round of condemnations–both from within and without Pakistan–has done nothing to change the fundamental reality: Pakistani leaders are unable to control fringe elements. As Roger I. Abrams over at Huff Po observes, Pakistan may never again host a cricket match of international significance. As well, Pakistan is now likely to lose its status as host of the 2011 Cricket World Cup.
That’s unfortunate. The sport of cricket is a galvanizing force, particularly for former British subjects in the developing world. There’s even such a thing as “cricket visas,” which allow fans to travel to hostile countries they’d otherwise never be allowed to visit. And perhaps no country needs the consoling distraction of sport more than Pakistan. Pakistan, of course, faces a litany of challenges: terrorist elements, rising tensions with India (particularly after the Mumbai attacks), failing infrastructure, economic decline. Cricket will solve none of those, but the sport’s role in soothing a frustrated populace is undeniable.