It has always been tempting to tut and sneer at the cricketers (Australians especially) who seemed to jump at every chance to avoid touring Pakistan. Whatever the real security fears there or in other areas of Asia, there was always the reassurance that cricket and cricketers would never be the targets of atrocities.

Today there is no sneering. That reassurance has vanished. “This is the end,” wrote the UK-based Pakistani commentator Kamran Abbasi on Cricinfo. His voice was mournful, revealing a sense of betrayal and disbelief.

There will be no international cricket in Pakistan for the foreseeable and that is a terrible shame. Cricket has a power to unite, to cross racial and religious boundaries, especially in Asia, that is unmatched by any other activity. Maybe it is that power that is been targeted today by the terrorists.

When India toured Pakistan in 2004, the warmth between supporters glowed with genuine emotion. Indians who travelled were overwhelmed by the welcome, by the friendliness of their hosts. When will Pakistanis next get the chance to host a visiting cricket team? One hopes it is not long but there seems no immediate prospect.

In the meantime, Pakistan must play, wherever and whenever is practical. The global game has a duty to itself and the law-abiding fans in a great cricket-playing nation. Pakistan has yielded so much cricketing talent and inspired so many followers as a result. It is inconceivable for such fertile ground to lie fallow.

John Stern is editor of The Wisden Cricketer