The third and last T-20 international of Pakistan’s home series against Sri Lanka is scheduled for Gadaffi Stadium at Lahore on October 29, after the two Tests, five one-day internationals and the first two T-20s at neutral venues. The Pakistan Cricket Board and Sri Lanka Cricket have agreed on the venue. However, there looms a threat of the match being shifted out to a neutral venue.
Reports suggest the Sri Lankan are wary of returning to the city where they were made the target of a terrorist attack nine years ago. Even as SLC had in principle agreed to play the last game on the tour in Lahore, there has been a “subject to security clearance” rider. Six Sri Lankan cricketers were injured in that attack during the tour of 2009.
The Sri Lanka board will depute an independent security expert to assess the situation later this week. The final call will depend on his report.
“As much as we understand the need to help Pakistan at this moment, we need to grasp the mentality of the players here,” Sunday Times has quoted an anonymous Sri Lanka cricketer as saying. “It was our team which was directly targeted and even though most of us were not with the team at that time, the scares still haunt us. At this moment, the players are not in favour of touring Pakistan but let’s wait and see.”
Suranga Lakmal, who survived the 2009 attack, recently said that he still has nightmares of the horrific incident which nearly cost his life. “That was my first tour with the Sri Lankan team,” Lakmal was quoted as saying by Cricbuzz. “I don’t like to talk about that day because I still have nightmares of that incident. I thought I was going to die that day.”
However, the seamer is willing to travel to Pakistan if the team takes a collective decision to do so, the report says. Following the attack, leading teams refused to tour Pakistan but recently the terror-torn country has hosted a World XI for a three-match T20 series in a bid to revive international cricket there.
The match was played under tight security in Lahore. “We will be meeting ICC officials mid this week and will get their views on the current security situation in Pakistan,” said SLC CEO Ashely de Silva. “If they provide a positive feedback, we will send a representative to assess the situation again before making a final decision.”
At a recent Press conference in Colombo, de Silva has said the players would not be penalised if they decided not to travel to Pakistan but added they were contractually bound. “As per the agreement signed with SLC they are obligated to,” he said. “There is a contractual obligation. If they have concerns, they could bring it to the notice of the management but so far no one has done so.”
Pakistan Cricket Board has promised tight, high-level security for the visiting teams and many former greats have called on all international teams to end the isolation. “Pakistan has no better friend than Sri Lanka,” former Pakistan skipper Waqar Younis has said. “We can show that, if Sri Lanka can come – as the shooting happened at their team bus – why not others. It will send a strong message to the world. I request them to come and I can ensure, with what we have seen during World XI series, that things will be fine,” the report quotes Waqar as saying.
Pakistan has been a great friend of Sri Lanka. When West Indies and Australia were threatening to boycott their first round World Cup fixtures following the Central Bank bombing two weeks before the commencement of the tournament, several Pakistan players joined Indian players for a friendly game against the hosts in Colombo to show their support.
Some believe it’s time to pay back the favour. Meanwhile, it is learned that Pakistan, who are desperate to revive cricket, are trying everything, including high-level diplomatic maneuvering, to get Sri Lanka down to play at Lahore.