Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)-As any high school athlete can tell you, sports facilitate teamwork, promote fair play and instil discipline and respect for others.
International sporting events can also build bridges between countries and their people, increasing dialogue and understanding, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.
That is why Cricket Australia’s decision to postpone its Bangladesh tour indefinitely is not just a disappointment for players and fans, but also a lost opportunity for international comity.
Australia’s 15-man squad was scheduled to begin the two-test series against Bangladesh on October 9.
The Bangladeshi tour was scrapped after Cricket Australia was warned by the Australian government about a potential security threat to Australians there.
Bangladesh has hosted Test cricket since 2000 without major incident.
After receiving initial word of Australia’s concerns, the government of Bangladesh committed to providing additional security, equivalent to that accorded visiting heads of state, in addition to the standard security that was already in place.
Still, Cricket Australia abandoned its tour.
The extremists’ threat won the day.
As both a cricket fan and a concerned citizen, I disagree with this choice.
I say, let them play! We must not bow to the threat of violence.
Rather, we should embrace the power of sports to build bridges across cultures and continents.
Cricket Australia’s decision was disappointing for both Bangladesh and Australia.
The contest was shaping up to be an important test on the big field of play.
The Bangladeshi team is on the rise. Its One Day form is powerful.
It was set to meet the young Australian team on its home field.
And the game was almost sure to be both competitive and entertaining.
The game should have gone on.
I am not alone in saying this.
Australian cricket captain Steve Smith was quite outspoken.
He said that he and his teammates were eager to play in Bangladesh.
This would have been Smith’s first full series in charge of the squad, so his chagrin is understandable, as was the heartbreak felt by the many fans in both countries who have waited patiently to see the new Australian captain at the helm.
Australian cricket legend Ian Chappell joined Smith in this strong view.
He asked: “If the same situation was occurring on a tour to India, what would happen then?”
The answer would probably be that the game would have gone on.
That’s just plain wrong if true.
That’s another reason that the postponement stung so much.
No doubt there was a political component to Cricket Australia’s decision.
But it was a poor political choice.
To allow factors outside of sports to prevail, when all possible security precautions have been taken, is a victory for the extremists; it’s exactly what they wanted.
And it is a loss for Australia as well as my own country.
Time and again, sports have been used to produce great political benefits and to bring people and nations together.
After all, what else are the Olympics but an alternative to war and a vehicle for peaceful relations?
There is a reason the United Nations continues to fund sports programs as both a door opener and peace-building initiative. It works.
It has been nine long years since fans were able to watch Australia and Bangladesh face off.
Bangladeshi fans and players were eager to see how their team would stack up against a young and raw Australian squad.
The cancellation of the Australian cricket team’s tour is sad for the cricket fans in both Bangladesh and Australia.
It’s sad for the players and coaches.
It’s sad that politics trumped sports.
Most of all, it is sad that one of the greatest vehicles for peace bowed to extremism.
It shouldn’t have happened or happen again.
Sajeeb Wazed is the chief information technology adviser to the government of Bangladesh and the son of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.