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Posted at: Sep 11, 2019, 7:18 AM; last updated: Sep 11, 2019, 7:18 AM (IST)

Pak minister imagines Indian hand in Lanka player pullout

Chandigarh, September 10

Chaudhary Fawad Hussain, a minister in Imran Khan’s cabinet in the Pakistani government, has come up with a conspiracy theory to explain the withdrawal of top Sri Lankan cricketers from the forthcoming tour of Pakistan.

Hussain, Pakistan’s federal minister for Science and Technology, wrote on Twitter: "Informed sports commentators told me that India threatened SL players that they’ll be ousted from IPL if they don't refuse Pak visit, this is really cheap tactic, jingoism from sports to space is something we must condemn, really cheap on the part of Indian sports authorities.” (sic)

Ten Sri Lanka players, including top players — including stars such as Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Kusal Perera, Thisara Perera, Suranga Lakmal and Dinesh Chandimal — pulled out of the tour of Pakistan for a limited-overs series. The players cited fears over security in Pakistan.

March 2009 attack

On March 3, 2009, the Sri Lankan team bus was attacked by 12 Islamist terrorists in Lahore, and the players were lucky to escape alive, though several of them suffered injuries.

Imran Khan, then in the opposition, had criticised the extent of security provided to the Sri Lankan team. Curiously, despite the presence of 25 commandos with the team bus and the van ferrying the umpiring staff, the terrorists were not hit, and they easily managed to escape. Match referee Chris Broad wondered why the Pakistani team, which usually travelled with the Sri Lankan team bus, was delayed that day and thus escaped being attacked. There was fear and suspicion over whether it was an inside job.

Of the players in the Sri Lankan team bus that day, only one is still in the scheme of things to be picked up now — Suranga Lakmal. The others, no doubt, have heard terrifying tales of the attack: Being attacked by the gunmen, inadequate fightback from the security personnel, and being saved largely due to the bravery of the bus driver, who drove the bus away to safety. Sri Lankan cricketers would be aware of how their peers came close to being killed on the streets of Lahore; is it any surprise then that several of them have chosen not to tour Pakistan?

Pakistan is the land of wild conspiracy theories; for instance, most of their cricket writers believe that the recent World Cup was fixed so that the trophy was pre-decided for hosts England — completely ignoring that such a fantastic contest in the final, a twice-tied result, is impossible fix.

Nadeem Paracha, a Pakistani writer and satirist, once wrote a fictional piece about how Malala Yousafzai — the schoolgirl shot at by the Taliban and later winner of the Nobel Prize — was not really a Pathan from Pakistan but a girl named Jane, born to Hungarian parents. Paracha’s piece is a fantastic mishmash of wild and impossible ‘facts’ and theories. Yet it became accepted as fact by large sections of Pakistani media.

No doubt there be millions of takers for Fawad Hussain’s ‘disclosure’ of an Indian hand in the withdrawal of 10 Sri Lankan cricketers from the tour of Pakistan. — Rohit Mahajan

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