Australia dangles on the cusp of becoming a sporting pariah if it gathers its skirts and runs off the moment there's a blast on another continent which gives it the shakes.
The Lahore attacks were indeed a scary new chapter in the terror potential of the sub-continent. It was possible to sympathise with the knee-jerk reaction of a people inured to the possibility of external threat by virtue of being an island nation. But to keep labelling India not safe enough to host a Davis Cup tie, even after ITF inspection and assurances by the highest authorities of this nation, reflects an ostrich-like stance that deserves a sound kick in the posterior it exposes.
Players from the United States, Britain and Japan — countries not too cavalier in dismissing safety threats to their citizens — are playing a tennis event in India right now. Aussies Glen McGrath, Matthew Hayden and George Bailey had no qualms coming to India before the IPL to spout their bit at press conferences. Megabucks, of course, serve as a fillip for courage. But if it was such a dangerous nation, then why did these cricketers — far more attractive to the Indian sports media and therefore far more luscious targets for terrorists — not feel unsafe and stay away? And if India is considered unsafe, then Sports Minster MS Gill's asking just how Britain is safe enough for the Ashes in May is one of the more valid queries coming from the quote-a-minute man.
Lleyton Hewitt, who claims to put Australia's Davis Cup challenge before self, began the whole drama. With an end to the need to come to India, Hewitt's chances to bolster his individual rankings are brighter than they have been for years. For all the loud talk, his stance has seen his nation lose a tie without hitting a ball. Hewitt has put personal perception over national need.
The silliest bit is that the Aussies seem to believe their skins are more precious than those of our players. Would India risk its legends Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi and future star Somdev Devvarman if it felt it could not conduct a safe tie? Do the Aussies think we are foolish enough to risk national shame by going ahead with an event that we would be unable to sanitise?
Now, a valid question mark straddles Australia's participation in the 2010 Common Wealth Games in Delhi. With terrorism morphing into a global phenomenon pretty soon the Aussies may have no place to play international sport. Then they can sit safe in their island and cower each time a bomb goes off thousands of miles away. They are lucky none explode in their backyard.