Is this how we want to play and watch cricket?

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There will be more soldiers than spectators, writes Geoff Boycott

In a column I wrote for a daily in England, I had mentioned that I didn’t think the England team’s tour of India should continue.

But, please do not take that comment out of context. I love India, I love commentating here, and I am as passionate about cricket as the average Indian, which is one reason we get along so well with each other.

And that is the biggest reason I believe we should not be playing cricket in India now.

Would you enjoy watching a cricket game surrounded by 5,000 soldiers and 300 commandos, or whatever the numbers are? Heck, there would be more armed soldiers in the stadium than spectators, and nobody enjoys cricket more than Indian spectators.

For them, a cricket match is an occasion to shout, scream, get involved, and have a picnic. In short, they are a joy to watch cricket with, and I don’t want my memories of cricket in India to be dominated by images of war. Is this how we want to play and watch cricket?

Disturbing as it may sound, it is difficult not to wonder whether money is actually the driving force behind it all. Make no mistake, had the target of the terrorists been the government, I would have been the first to say that it must be business as usual and we can’t give in to cowards who kill unarmed people.

But cricket is only a sport, a game, so at what cost must we play it? I’ve been putting myself in the shoes of the Indians, and imagining how I would have felt had someone bombed Leeds, and I was playing for Yorkshire. Would I then be happy to play cricket, which has been my life, in Birmingham or London? I think not.

Would the people of Yorkshire want its team to play cricket? Certainly not!

The money factor

So why has it become so vital that we play this series? TV money is likely to be one answer, and IPL another. The boards want the TV revenues in these recession-hit times, and it could well be that some of the English players fear they will not receive an invitation to the IPL if they don’t come to India now, however uneasy that makes them.

I know I can’t prove any of this, but in the end, it has probably got to do with dirty, filthy, sexy money.

No excuses

Amidst all this, Pakistan, which has been struggling with cancelled tours, will feel extremely hard done by. The simple truth is: if you can travel to India, you can travel to Pakistan, no excuses.

If India gives you 5,000 soldiers, Pakistan can give you 6,000, probably. So now you’ve set a precedent by coming to India and talking about fairness and courage, it’s great news for Pakistan.

As for the cricket, well, I would imagine it would be really tough for the Mumbai lads in the team to take the field. It’s their people who have been killed, after all. And if you were to ask me about the cricket on the field, I would say it’s pretty irrelevant.


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