That old debate about whether sports and the world outside its sphere should be kept in two separate boxes came to a resounding end on Tuesday morning in Lahore. By targeting visiting Sri Lankan players outside the Gaddafi Stadium, about a dozen terrorists nailed the myth that sports can be cocooned from the big, bad world outside. But what marks the terrorist attack on Tuesday apart from earlier more potent ones is that for the first time since the 1972 Munich Olympics — when hooded members of the Black September terrorist organisation massacred Israeli athletes in the Olympic Village premises — sportsmen have been picked as terrorist targets. Here in the subcontinent we are familiar with the frequent boycotts of sporting and cultural exchanges that accompany the sabre-rattling of the Indian and Pakistani establishments. In the face of such meta-diplomacy, critics have believed that a sport as popular in the subcontinent as cricket would actually go against the tide of mutual ill-will and play at least a subliminal role in mending ties. After all, why would anyone want to take out one’s ideological ire against sportsmen who show more inter-national camaraderie than their governments might show?
The targeting of Sri Lankan players by terrorists is even more bizarre, especially when one considers that this team was game to play in a country that many other teams like England were avoiding because of security reasons. So is this the end of Pakistani cricket? Considering that the existence of the State of Pakistan is increasingly coming into question, this would certainly seem so. But there is a way of bypassing the old ‘quarantine’ route of dealing with a dangerous place like Pakistan. Pakistani players could play in ‘neutral’ venues — like Sharjah — thereby sparing its players and their fans the consequence of a total boycott. A question mark does hang over the fate of cricket in the subcontinent in general. While BCCI officials insist that India is no Pakistan, convincing international players that there are no overt security concerns in the neighbourhood will now be an even more difficult task.
Choosing ‘high visibility targets’ like sportsmen and entertainers is no longer a no-go area for terrorists. Keeping this is in mind and the fact that Mumbai’s 26/11 could spawn copy cats (as reportedly was the case in Lahore on Tuesday), we should know how to go about our daily lives and regular pleasures by going round terror threats rather than by ignoring them.