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Three Assaults in One Week

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The cricket world has reason to be reeling this week. Primarily because of the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricketers, but there have two other attacks that could have long-term significance as far as the game goes. 

The terrorist attack in Lahore has many strange facets to it. It is bizarre that about a dozen terrorists with guns and ammunition could make their way to the convoy in rickshaws, right in the heart of the city. It is even more bizarre that they could attack without any challenge for over 20 minutes - the touring team was supposed to have “head-of-state” security. But the most bizarre thing is that there were no casualties amongst the ostensible targets – the Sri Lankan cricket team. How could such highly trained terrorists miss with a rocket launcher and a hand grenade, let alone the sophisticated guns they attacked the convoy with? It makes one wonder if the objective of the attack was to kill or to scare and pass on a message (therefore the six policemen killed assume an even more tragic note). 

Simon Taufel and Muralitharan have hinted at an inside job by questioning the change of timing of Pakistan’s convoy, Chris Broad has wondered where the policemen were when the attack was going on, and Ijaz Butt – the PCB Chairman, has reacted overly aggressively (and strangely defensively, given that Broad was there in the line of fire and Butt wasn’t) to Broad’s comments. It is all very strange and only emphasises what a slime-pit Pakistan is today. Their Establishment is dangerously divided today, and that might be the biggest challenge they face. 

Meanwhile, the sustained assault on Test cricket continues in the West Indies with ridiculously one-sided batting pitches, match after match. What moronity this is in the face of T20 cricket and shorter attention spans cannot be overstated. The same thing was going on in Pakistan till the more visible terrorist assault put an end to that series. At this rate, why even have human beings bowling – have bowling machines and specialist batsmen, all ten of them, and the wicket-keeper. Why can the ICC not take charge of this issue? Is it not the most critical issue of all in the world of cricket – that Test cricket is getting devalued match after match, series after series? 

The only happy assault this week for the entire cricket world (except South Africa) has come from Mitchell Johnson. He got just 3 wickets in South Africa’s first innings of the second Test at Durban but they are worth twice that. The body blows he has dealt South Africa (and not just Smith and Kallis who retired hurt) with aggressive sustained fast bowling are reminiscent of Glenn McGrath charging out of Craig McDermott’s shadow in West Indies circa 1994. The World Champions have responded worthily when their crown was under threat – Ponting’s remarkably aggressive batting after Australia was 30-odd for 3 in the first Test also needs to get a lot of the credit. Johnson’s coming of age is just what the cricket world needs – there is nothing like lethal fast bowling to get the spectator juices flowing again. With Steyn in the opposition, this could still be an incredible series* if miracle man (and the greatest find in international cricket in recent times) Duminy were to rescue South Africa in the second Test but that might be asking lightning to strike more often than its myth can endure. Let’s just be grateful this series isn’t being played on the pitches we’ve seen in the Subcontinent and the West Indies in recent times.

*At the time of posting, Australia are comfortably placed with a lead of 506 runs with 7 wickets to go, so there is only one way this Test is probably going - Australia's.

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