At least 12 gunmen attacked a bus carrying the Sri Lankan national cricket team Tuesday, as they were arriving for a cricket match in Lahore, Pakistan. The gunmen threw grenades and fired rifles and rocket launchers during a 15-minute gun battle, killing eight Pakistanis, including six policemen and a driver, and wounding seven players, a coach and an umpire.
The Sri Lankan team was beginning a tour of Pakistan after India had pulled out of its scheduled tour citing security concerns in the wake of the November terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Many other countries have refused to play in Pakistan for the same reason.
It will likely be years before international cricket returns to Pakistan. Many countries, including India, Britain and Australia, already refused to play in Pakistan due to security reasons and now it is unlikely that any country will do so. Pakistan was scheduled to co-host the 2011 Cricket World Cup, but that will almost certainly be taken away.
The international isolation of the Pakistani cricket team may move Pakistan further from the outside world. “Attacking the national pastime is a way of shutting off Pakistan from the rest of the world,” says The Spectator’s Alex Massie.
“Cricket was one of the few remaining arenas in which Pakistan could engage with other countries on anything like normal terms. That avenue to the world has been closed.”
Cricket is the most popular sport in South Asia, a “secular religion that unites the otherwise fissiparous Indian subcontinent,” writes the Financial Times. “It is hard to overstate the position of cricket in regional life…In times of relative detente, it enables the arch-rivals of the subcontinent, India and Pakistan, to continue warring by other means.”
“All my life, cricket has been the only truly high-profile opportunity for the world to see televised images of Pakistan that are not about politics or terrorism,” says The Guardian’s Kamila Shamsie.
But the national pride created through cricket will be tempered for the foreseeable future. “Cricket is front and centre, heart and soul, of the ‘alternative narrative’ of Pakistan, the story that isn’t about destruction and terror but rather about all the aspects of life in Pakistan worth celebrating,” writes Shamsie.
“With the attack on the Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore, that alternative narrative lies so wounded it’s hard to imagine how it will ever recover.”
Article originally published at findingDulcinea