While the information coming out of Pakistan is still sketchy, the vivid contributions of Trevor Bayliss on Cricinfo and Dominic Cork on Radio Five Live here in the UK this morning have served to build the impression of a really serious terrorist incident in which, in all probability, the Sri Lankan team were specifically targetted. While the events were obviously utterly tragic for those who died, there's no overlooking the fact that, for cricket, things could have been much, much worse.
According to Bayliss, Thilan Samaraweera, who was in the form of his life, is the worst-affected player but it is thought likely that he'll play again.
For cricket in Pakistan, though, the long-term effects are likely to be dreadful. It's impossible to envisage any other international side agreeing to play there in any form of the game in the foreseeable future, and, while they'll probably be able to pick up some of the slack by arranging series in the Middle East, it won't do anything for the health of the game at home. Pakistan, a young country which has produced some of the most naturally brilliant cricketers in the game's history, has started to seem an increasingly marginal presence at the game's top table over recent years, and the future for it now looks bleak.
There are precedents. South Africa spent twenty-two years in the cold and came back stronger and better. For Pakistan the barren years surely won't last that long, but, while they do, it's important for the ICC to support its cricket community in any way it can.
At the very top level, cricket is a small game. Zimbabwe has been lost to Test cricket; the world game can't afford its field to shrink any further.
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