Pakistan is receiving a depressing insight into the new reality of life after the Lahore terror attacks. Australia and New Zealand have spoken publicly about moving scheduled Tests series away from Pakistan over the next two years; the first in what will surely be an avalanche of withdrawals that would effectively render Pakistan an itinerate team.
Cricket Australia revealed it was exploring the option of shifting its three-Test series against Pakistan, scheduled for 2010, to the neutral venue of England. CA has suggested it would still participate in a bi-lateral limited overs series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates next month, but effectively ruled out touring Pakistan the following year to play Test cricket.
"One option we have discussed with them is playing three Tests in England in mid-2010 or thereabouts after the ODIs we are due to play against England in England," CA spokesman Peter Young told PA. "I understand that England is, in principle, aware of and comfortable with that possibility, subject to details that might develop.
"However, that is a continuing discussion at the moment, I don't think it is possible to predict when the current discussions might be finalised, and I don't think it is possible to predict whether the above outcome or a completely different outcome might eventuate."
Australia, India, New Zealand and the West Indies are among the teams to have postponed or cancelled tours to Pakistan in recent years, and New Zealand will almost certainly call off their scheduled series there in November. The Black Caps experienced first-hand the dangers of touring Pakistan in 2002, when a bomb exploded outside their Karachi hotel, and NZC chief executive Justin Vaughan hinted strongly that the team would not return in the near future.
"It's very frightening that for the first time a cricket team appears to be the specific target of terrorist action," Vaughan told NZPA. "That's never happened before - all previous incidents have been about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is a very different proposition and I think just a very frightening one for world cricket. You'd have to say this would throw further doubt over that tour but we don't make those decisions off the cuff like that. This is really serious."
Visting teams have experienced brushes with terrorism in the past, but only now, with the Sri Lankans directly targetted by militants, is Pakistan faced with a blanket boycott. Eight dead security personnel and as many injured Sri Lankan squad members demonstrates the extent of deterioration in the security situation, and provoked an anguished reaction from many within international cricket. Certainly, the long-suffering supporters of Pakistan cricket are in for more pain. Deprived of regular cricket for years, Pakistani fans can now be certain that no touring team will cross their borders for years to come. The series against Sri Lanka was cancelled immediately after Tuesday's attacks, and similar announcements regarding other tours are expected in the coming months. Pakistan is also likely to be stripped of its status as co-host of the 2011 World Cup.
As the shock from the Lahore terrorist attacks took hold, international cricket was left to ponder the ramifications of Tuesday's events which, tragically, have dashed the long-held notion that cricket was immune from terror's grasp.
Wasim Akram, the former Pakistan captain, said Pakistan hosting the World Cup in 2011 was now a "distant dream". "How do you expect a foreign team to come to Pakistan now? We took pride in hosting our guests," Akram told ESPN Star. "This image has taken a beating. It's sad for Pakistan."
Waqar Younis, Akram's bowling partner, said the chances of foreign teams coming to Pakistan were now remote. "We have to agree with whatever the ICC decides," he said.
Reg Dickason, the security consultant contracted by the ECB and CA, said he had long feared that terrorists in Pakistan would target cricketers. "A lot of the concerns we raised during the Champions Trophy have unfortunately come home to roost," Dickason told Cricinfo. "The notion of sporting teams being a protected species was held by many, but it was not a view that we shared, unfortunately.
"There were a number of factors we considered, including the global exposure an attack on an international sporting team could have. (Tours of Pakistan) are highly unlikely for the forseeable future given the present environment. How could you go there now? The Australians were supposed to have played there in March. This, unfortunately, is the realisation of many of the things we thought, and it is a terrible way to find out."
Geoff Lawson, who served as Pakistan coach until last October, feared the team would suffer from being cast into a nomadic existence. "Cricket won't be played in Pakistan for the foreseeable future," Lawson said. "Pakistan look like they will become a wandering cricket team now. They will be playing at neutral venues, because you can guarantee that there won't be games there [at home]. Obviously, there is no chance of the Champions Trophy or the World Cup going ahead there."
In a small vote of confidence, CA confirmed its intention to proceed with an ODI series against Pakistan which, due to security concerns, had already been shifted to the United Arab Emirates.
"We do not expect this to affect the series (in the UAE)," Young said. "We are due to complete a security inspection tour at the end of the week, and that is expected to go ahead as planned."