LAHORE: The dust has still not settled yet for claims that “security threat” and “increasing concerns about travelling to the region” were the main causes behind not playing international cricket in Pakistan. The deep scar given by New Zealand and England to Pakistan cricket will take a long time to heal. New Zealand’s abrupt pullout without clarifying the reasons hit Pakistan cricket big time while England aggravated the injury. When New Zealand took the decision of cancelling their tour to Pakistan, it was written on the wall that England would follow suit. Their collusive move is nothing short of a catastrophe for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and its future plans to host other countries, such as Australia in 2022, look very uncertain. Cricket Australia has said it is monitoring the situation, gathering information from security experts, before deciding to tour Pakistan in February and March next year. Australia have not toured Pakistan since 1998 over security fears. Most probably Australia will not tour to Pakistan after the malafide pull outs. Pakistan have been wronged by New Zealand and England. And Australia is that not far behind. It is a massive setback for the cricket-mad nation which moved heaven and earth to project itself as a safe destination and won tour commitments from several leading teams. Cricket is no longer a gentleman’s game but all about money now. Cricket no longer chases high ideals. Cricket boards chase money: England, New Zealand and Australia are the prime examples of money-slaves with India leading as their master/god. Greed has no limits or boundaries. There is no doubt in one’s mind that India is pulling the strings of cricket around the globe. Even the International Cricket Council (ICC) is controlled by the Indians. The world body is nothing but an impotent tool that moves around at the whims and wishes of the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI), and even it is always willing and ready to reschedule the ICC world events. Since the start of private Twenty20 leagues, particularly the Indian Premier League, bilateral series and Future Tours Programme (FTP) are not the priority anymore. They can be cancelled at whims on India just to accommodate and focus on the IPL which generates around $12 billion. Cancellation of fifth England and India Test in Manchester over “outbreak of COVID-19 in the Indian team contingent” was nothing but a farce. And later malicious decision of New Zealand and England to withdraw from Pakistan’s short tours was all about the IPL. To benefit the Indian-sponsored tournaments and leagues, players’ welfare or the state of mind of players or the physical exhaustion of players are barely considered by New Zealand, England or Australia. Pakistan were supposed to play at least 12 Twenty20s ahead of the World Cup, but with the withdrawal of both England and New Zealand they will go into the event with just one completed T20. This was against the West Indies. Since the COVID-19 hit the world in a big way, Pakistan, despite air travel representing a serious health threat and following strictest periods of isolation, have toured England, New Zealand, West Indies, South Africa and even Zimbabwe not only to fill kitties of cricket boards but also ensuring, as a responsible contributor, that cricket continues around the world. They would have played Ireland and Afghanistan as well, had it not been impossible to find grounds in England, or had the Taliban not taken over Afghanistan. It is an irony that Pakistan went to England to safeguard the ECB’s financial health in the middle of a raging pandemic, there was little consideration for the mental and physical effects of COVID-19 bubbles on Pakistan’s players. Pakistan always expected reciprocity. They expected that their sacrifices would pave the way for return of international cricket to Pakistan: the visit of teams such as England, New Zealand and Australia. But in response what they got — insult and humiliation. Thus, Pakistan cricket serves no purpose to New Zealand, England or Australia. The money and the excitement lies with India, the IPL and world tournaments. Former England Test captain Michael Atherton, who played 115 Tests and 54 ODIs for England from 1989 to 2001, wrote in his column that both England administrators and players were wrong in selling a dummy to Pakistan when they should have shown gratitude for their magnanimity last year when Pakistan toured the UK in midst of a raging pandemic: “English cricket, the governing body and players, had a chance to do the right thing this week. They had a chance to repay a debt, uphold their honour and side with a cricketing nation that has undergone challenges others cannot even begin to contemplate. Instead, citing a mealy-mouthed statement, they did the wrong thing.” Since the ‘Big Three’ were disbanded back in February 2017, most of international cricket has been played between India, Australia, England and New Zealand. What more heartbreaking was that England’s tour to Pakistan was scheduled to last just four or five days. It involved one day of quarantine and two T20Is on consecutive days. It was two days shorter than the quarantine period required for players returning to the UAE to complete the IPL. Pakistan had also offered to move the matches to Lahore and play them behind closed doors, but to no avail. Despite terrorism incidents in United Kingdom in 2005 and 2017, international cricket was played there without any break. New Zealand and England’s pull outs have also demonstrated to all sundry the divide between the cricket world’s richer boards and not so rich boards. These decisions have provided a reminder that the affluent nations do not fully understand their wider responsibilities to the game, that they are heartless, shameless and hypocrites, and they don’t follow fair-play. It is thus a slap in the face to Pakistan if they travelled in the face of a real threat but New Zealand and England won’t travel in the face of a perceived threat. The PCB has no real recourse to recouping the losses incurred by the two withdrawals other than to bear it. It cannot go to the ICC because there is no such thing really as the ICC but an impotent and worthless organisation with India running the show. In what has been a rocky start to his chairmanship, PCB chief Ramiz Raja now faces a challenge that it seemed the country had overcome. International cricket had largely been restored to Pakistan, thanks to the work of his predecessors. He is faced again with the arduous task of convincing the top world teams that Pakistan is safe for cricket. Ramiz has to remake the reputation of his country’s cricket and for that purpose he needs the support and positive impact of his country’s Prime Minister on society more broadly. Cricket represents Pakistan’s pride and honour. Pakistan cricket deserves admiration. Pakistan is known for its warm, selfless hospitality but also for its undying love for cricket which unifies people. Ramiz said that there were lessons to be learnt, and that Pakistan would put its interests first in the future while adding that the PCB would go all out in seeking compensation for the cancelled tours. He also spoke about building a cricket economy and making the national team the best in the world. That is the right approach and should be the way forward for Pakistan cricket.