KARACHI : It was an International Cricket Council (ICC) World T20 match in Dhaka and I was startled when the crowd and fireworks roared in the end.
A Bangladeshi journalist, who had just observed my surprise, asked me why I was overwhelmed as I was supposed to be accustomed to these things. “After all, you are a Pakistani? You must be used to such things,” he said.
Our country was indeed having terrible days back then. I was extremely angry over his comments and told him that bomb blasts were not a regular feature for the whole of Pakistan. “Terror attacks do occur at certain places, but our security agencies are working really hard,” said I. “The wave of militancy would end soon.”
And while my aspiration and optimism became reality especially with Pakistan curbing down terror threats at a frantic pace, it did not change the perception of the world too much.
We Pakistanis do get scared as we are humans too, but the world keeps treating us differently.
The Australian team voiced their concerns before signing up for the T20 Tri-Series as a bomb blast in Bulawayo had threatened to derail the series.
However, seeing that all the matches were to be held in Harare, the Aussies agreed to be part of the competition. But the case is quite different for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) which considers its players to be made of steel.
The board did not even care to ask anyone about their opinion and carried on with their plans to send the team to Zimbabwe.
When our players communicated with the locals, they got to know that the country has been experiencing tough law-and-order situations because of the upcoming elections.
When some of our cricketers expressed their reservations, they were shamefully made fun of. When the Pakistan team was set to depart for Bulawayo, they were informed, at the very last moment, that the team should stay back since Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) had not paid for their accommodation in Bulawayo.
The fact was that ZC did not want to invite any trouble for itself, especially related to the law and order situation in the country, so it did not want the guests to leave Harare for Bulawayo.
Pakistani players had earlier filed a request to shift the series to Harare but the board reminded them that as per the MoU, they had to play the series in Bulawayo.
It is beyond comprehension why ZC had somehow arranged for the accommodation expenses for Harare but not for Bulawayo. If was for money, then the issue would have been resolved the very next day, but how come the rooms were procured just a day before the match?
What prompted security manager Colonel (retd) Azam to visit Bulawayo before the departure of team?
We all know that hotel rooms are not booked a day before. No hotel can afford to stop a visiting team if advance booking has been made. While ZC might be facing financial constraints, we must not ignore the security issues of the country.
Since Zimbabwean players visited Pakistan during our hard times, our board chose to pay back the favour without sensible considerations.
There is nothing wrong in returning a favour, but if the players were requesting the board to shift matches to Harare, then they should have been given consideration.
Our cricketers have families too, and they might be concerned for the security of their loved ones.
Reservations, if any, should be given due attention. A better way to pay back the favour would have been that PCB high-ups and their families had accompanied the teams throughout their Zimbabwe tour.
Contenders continue to compete for tours in England or Australia, but they do not have the courage to visit countries like Zimbabwe and Pakistan. Those in charge of international cricket seem to lack even its basic meaning.
Their Twitter feeds are full of commentary on football matches. Zimbabwe lacks in facilities and amenities as players had been intimating the board from time to time. A complaint had prompted the hosting board to allow the guests to practice in its main ground because there was no better place. The board officials should have a keen look at the conditions of the ground they are touring.
Top teams, including Australia and England, and even India would always send their inspection teams to international grounds before the match starts. However, the protocol seems to have been ignored by the PCB in recent tours.
Now that we have a series in UK, board officials would frequently be visiting the country as if they are commuting from Lahore to Multan and back. We must not expect any alien to respect our teams if we are to treat them unfairly back at home.
The idea that Pakistanis do not have security threats abroad is senseless; our cricketers are as special as players in rest of the world.
Pakistan is not likely to drive any real benefit from the five-match ODI series against Zimbabwe.
However, the tour may help the financially crippled board of Zimbabwe to make some cash. We would not add much in our negotiating powers if it is only Zimbabwe which has been touring our country, and the idea that we can drive financial benefit is simply out of question.
It would be better that cricket regimes for countries such as Zimbabwe remain restricted to our junior teams. That would allow novel players to have some international experience. However, regardless of whether the team is senior or junior, there must be proper arrangements for security, travel, accommodation and coordination.
The idea that Pakistanis can survive in the worst of circumstances must now die down.
Men in Green were supposed to leave on Monday, but now will depart on Thursday
Failure to do so will see Men in Green slip behind sixth-placed Australia
Opener has been in impeccable form since making debut for Pakistan last year