Angus Fraser: Stakes have become too high

Touring Asia used to be one of the game's great pleasures but those days are now over

The dream of every aspirant young cricketer as he advances through the county system is to make his Test or one-day debut and then represent his country in exotic sounding destinations like Barbados, Cape Town, Mumbai, Sydney or Lahore. Playing in front of a home crowd is magnificent fun but touring with England is the ultimate experience.

Before "9/11" accepting an invitation to tour was a simple decision. It presented a quandary that took precisely one second of your time to solve. But that changed forever yesterday when the first terrorist bullet was fired at the Sri Lankan cricket team as it made its way to the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.

Up until that moment most cricketers believed that they were not and were unlikely to be the targets of terrorists. Yes, there was the possibility of a player being caught in the fallout of an attack on a city centre, but with the world being as it is there was a possibility of this happening whether you were shopping in Birmingham or Bangalore. In a strange way there were times when you actually felt safer in Asia, where cricketers are figures of worship. For many of the regions fans it was Sachin Tendulkar, Wasim Akram or Muttiah Muralitharan who provided rare moments of excitement and joy.

It is hard to believe the stomach of any true cricket fan failed to feel numb and empty once it became clear that Mahela Jayawardene's side were the intended targets of the abhorrent act. Every player who has toured Asia will have sat on a similar bus and made similar journeys to and from the ground they were playing at. On occasion each of us would have nervously looked out of the coach window and questioned the motives of the motorbike driver inquisitively staring at you.

But on nearly every occasion the stare turned to a smile once he had realised the coach was filled with cricketers. Considering the humble life of most of these people it was easy to thank your lucky stars for the position you were in. Your escort to the ground may have consisted of Jeeps full of armed guards and police cars with sirens blaring, but as you made your way to work you did not feel in peril.

Yesterday's act has placed cricketers in a horrible position because it will now make them seriously question doing what they have spent most of their life attempting to do. Teams cannot tolerate players picking and choosing the tours they go on. It does nothing for team spirit, but it may become an issue the selectors have to tolerate. Never before have the stakes been so high. Most cricketers accept that the job of playing international cricket goes further than simply bowling or hitting a small hard piece of leather. The honour of representing your country carries extra responsibility and there are times when you are required to place yourself in a position others would happily avoid. It was the case before Christmas when the terrorist attacks on Mumbai forced the England team to abandon their tour of India and return home. It is hard to believe any of those selected for the tour really wanted to return to India for the Test series. But there was a sense of duty to return, a belief that it was the right thing to do, not just for cricket but for the sake of liberty too. To many people the sight of Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook walking out to bat in Chennai stuck two fingers up at the terrorists.

Yesterday's events, however, make you wonder how brave and big a statement a cricketer should be expected to make. Representing one's country is an honour bestowed on very few, and it is a privilege that should not be taken for granted. But, despite what some people think, there are many more important things in life. The health of yourself or a family member, or the chance to watch and be involved in your children growing up, is worth far more than any Test or one-day cap.

It would be impossible to count the number of times Paul Farbrace, the former Kent and Middlesex wicket-keeper and current Sri Lanka assistant coach, has been told what a lucky man he is. As surgeons in Lahore stitched him up yesterday morning and his wife, Liz, nervously waited for an update on his health, I wondered whether they felt the same.

That cricket appears to stand for so much more than the game is one of its greatest assets. Football and rugby rarely become embroiled in major political and international incidents. The water they sail on seems relatively calm to that of the honourable game. A week rarely goes by without cricket grabbing the headlines for off-field activities

It is not only Pakistan that will feel the consequences of yesterday's atrocities – India will too. Many people find it hard to differentiate between the countries in the region; they tend to classify them all as one. With India comes a considerable portion of the game's income, money that could quickly disappear if the Indian national side find opponents hard to come by and the highly lucrative Indian Premier League struggles to attract cricket's biggest stars.

Players of my generation may look on in envy at the sums Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff earn, but it is debatable whether they would swap the cash for the memories. In time the money will seem less relevant but the fun and the freedom we had can never be replaced. On future tours players may see little more than cricket grounds and hotel rooms and such restraint would not have allowed the likes of Ian Botham and Philip Tufnell to become the characters they are.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Nick Clegg on the campaign trail in Glasgow on Wednesday; he says education is his top priority
peopleNick Clegg remains optimistic despite dismal Lib Dem poll ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Déjà vu: David Tennant returns to familiar territory with Anna Gunn (‘Breaking Bad’)
tvReview: Something is missing in Gracepoint, and it's not just the familiar names
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?