Reports: Sri Lankan team not in favour of touring Pakistan for Lahore T20I
What's the story?
According to various reports in the media, the proposed T20I between Pakistan and Sri Lanka in Lahore is in serious jeopardy. Wary of the security situation as well as the unfortunate events of the 2009 tour, most of the Sri Lankan players are understood to be reluctant to make the trip to Pakistan. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) have put the onus on feedback from the International Cricket Council (ICC) before moving further on the matter.
"We will be meeting ICC officials this week and will get their views on the current security situation in Pakistan. If they provide a positive feedback, we will send a representative to assess the situation again before making a final decision,” SLC CEO Ashley de Silva was quoted as saying to The Sunday Times.
However, a former Sri Lankan cricketer revealed upon condition of anonymity, "As much as we understand the need to help Pakistan at this moment, we need to grasp the mentality of the players here. It was our team which was directly targeted and even though most of us were not with the team at that time, the scars still haunt us. At this moment, the players are not in favour of touring Pakistan but let’s wait and see."
In the past...
During their tour of Pakistan in 2009, a team bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricketers came under attack by 12 gunmen near the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. After the local police force retaliated, six officers and two civilians were killed in the deadly ambush.
Thanks to the bravery of the bus driver Mehar Mohammad Khalil, the Sri Lankan team survived the incident. But several players suffered shrapnel injuries and had to be hospitalised for a brief period of time after they were airlifted from the stadium by helicopters and taken to Colombo.
The heart of the matter
As a consequence of the 2009 attack, Pakistan were deprived of international cricket and had to host their 'home' fixtures in the United Arab Emirates. In recent times, the security situation has been improving rapidly as evidenced by the brief limited-overs series against Zimbabwe in 2015 and 3 T20Is against a World XI outfit last month. It is pertinent to note that Thisara Perera was the sole Sri Lankan representative in the World XI team.
Following the smooth conduct of the series against World XI, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) announced that they were in talks with their Sri Lankan counterparts for hosting one of the 3 T20Is of the ongoing tour at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. Even though SLC expressed interest in the proposal, the Sri Lankan cricketers are reportedly uncomfortable with the idea of touring Pakistan.
If the Sri Lankan players remain firm on their reluctance to tour Pakistan, the third and final T20I could take place in the UAE itself. The match is slated to occur on October 29.
From the touring contingent which was attacked in 2009, only fast bowler Suranga Lakmal and middle-order batsman Chamara Kapugedara are in contention for making the squad for the upcoming T20I series. Their inputs could be vital in influencing the rest of the team. Considering the fact that the cricketers are the ones who will be under immense scrutiny, SLC should leave the final call to them.