Weakened team?

By early next week we will know, perhaps not definitively, but to a far greater degree, whether the ICC Champions Trophy can survive.

The well-conceived but badly ill-fated ‘sick baby’ of the ICC’s litter of tournaments will struggle to survive if, as expected, England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa decline to travel the troubled host nation of Pakistan.

Cricket South Africa’s executive committee meet on Tuesday and all the early indications are that they will find it hard to see beyond the evidence placed before them by the ICC’s officially sanctioned security report. As keen as they are, and have to be, to support Pakistan and the Asian nations for political and fiscal reasons, the report paints an honest picture rather than a convenient one.

The Players Associations of England, Australia and New Zealand are aligned with SACA in accepting the findings of the report. If the report guaranteed (to an a acceptable degree) the safety of the players, then all would agree to travel and participate in the tournament.

The problem for CSA at the moment, is that the country’s own embassy in Pakistan have advised them not to send the national team. In writing. Officially.

Former CSA Treasurer and selection convenor, Haroon Lorgat, now ICC chief executive, requested a private audience with the SA squad in England in order to convince them Pakistan was safe and persuade them to travel.

Almost four years ago, however, Lorgat was a significant instigator in the move to take all decisions regarding safety and security away from the players and place them in the hands of experts, Nicholls-Steyn & Associates. Ever since then, at least one security expert has travelled with the team on most tours and has, in effect, been responsible for making security decisions.

It was peculiar, to say the least, for Lorgat to expect to be granted an audience with the team. Or even for him to think it was reasonable to request one. South Africa’s players are well ahead of the rest of the world’s in accepting that they, as professional cricketers, are not qualified to make judgements on security matters.

But far, far more spectacular than Lorgat’s well-intentioned but naive attempt to talk to the Proteas, is the talk of several pundits predicting that ‘weakened’ teams might be sent to Pakistan. Weakened?? How?

This must, presumably, mean mentally weakened, or spiritually. It can’t have anything to do with cricketing ability. Nobody would say that a batsman averaging 30 was more disposable than one averaging 40. The better cricketer’s life is worth no more than the one with less ability.

Or perhaps there is a cunning scheme…a team of club cricketers with life sentences in English prisons? Perhaps South Africa could send a squad of car-jackers and house-breakers? The risk of a terrorism bomb or two would be well worth it for two weeks in the Karachi and Lahore sunshine. They might even get the chance to make a run for it, better than another 30 years in high security.

For goodness sake, could somebody knock some bloody heads together? Does ‘adequate security’ depend on how much money you have in the bank? Is that what qualifies Kevin Pietersen to say he’s concerned about going to Pakistan?

If the security report expresses as much ‘concern’ as the people who have read it say it does, then let’s postpone Pakistan’s tournament, compensate the PCB and endevour to return when conditions are better. But if the experts say “we can do this, let’s do it,” then let’s all bloody well get over there and do it.

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