It makes sense to remember that it is only a clash of teams, not of civilisations
Shahryar Khan was a veteran Pakistani diplomat before Gen Musharraf put him in charge of the cricket board. Controversy has broken out in Pakistan’s tour of England, involving an umpiring decision [See this post on Cricket24x7]. Accusations of ball-tampering and bad umpiring are not new. But the import of Shahryar Khan’s statement certainly is:
â€œHis attitude has upset our team more than once,â€ Shahriyar said. â€œIt is wonderful to see cricket between a Muslim country and England, a majority Christian country, and both sides being totally appreciated. Cricket offers a bridge of peace, why destroy this over a technicality. [Times]
By taking ‘cricket diplomacy’ too seriously, Pakistan is risking damaging cricket without having much to offer and show for diplomacy. Gen Musharraf was quick to weigh in strongly in favour of the cricket team, doing his bit to transform sporting passions into political ones. Surely he is not oblivious to the political context of the current situation—for the unearthing of the transatlantic bombing plot, invoving Pakistan and British citizens of Pakistani origin is still fresh in the minds of people in both countries. If Musharraf was the enlightened moderate that he claims to be, he would have stayed out of fray, even if it is too much to expect him to cool tempers by pointing out cricket is, well, just cricket.
Update: Martin Samuel has an excellent op-ed in the Times.