February 13, 2018

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Pakistan is preparing to show the cricketing world it is safe to play international matches in the country by staging a three-game Twenty20 international series against a World XI in Lahore [this] week. Only Zimbabwe has toured Pakistan — for a short, limited-overs series two years ago — since terrorists attacked a Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in 2009. The World XI tour is a major breakthrough for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), which had been working to attract international cricket to the country.

Tens of thousands of Iraqis, Syrians and Afghans passed through here, heading for the Hungarian or Croatian border, hoping to get to Germany or Austria. [...] The vast majority left were young men and boys from Afghanistan and Pakistan. And the game of choice to pass the time in the refugee camps was cricket.

No denying that sports and games do great branding for a country. When Mabia Akter Simanta, a weightlifter from Bangladesh won the first gold for her country at the 2016th South Asian games and stood on the victory stand, tears rolled down her cheek. It was tears of joy and happiness. 

The healing touch provided by the feel-good diplomacy for the return of Geeta from Pakistan has evaporated with the cancellation of the Delhi concert by Ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali. While the Ministry of External Affairs refuses to acknowledge any setback to India-Pakistan people-to-people relationship, the Pakistani civil society figures think otherwise.

Rosy Senanayake and Kumar Sangakkara are two extremely popular Sri Lankans and shadows that have befallen their careers have caused heartburn among their fans. [...] This brings in the key question: Can anyone who is not a professional diplomat and wants to be one or is selected as one be a successful diplomat?

It is important to appreciate that cricket has for many years been the lifeblood of the Australia-India relationship. Historically, it has often been said that the Australia-India relationship is based on three things: cricket, Commonwealth and curry. 

In a statement on Twitter, Mr. Modi said he conveyed “best wishes” to the Pakistani prime minister for the 2015 Cricket World Cup, as well as to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. “Cricket connects people in our region & promotes goodwill,” Mr. Modi said in another tweet.