Sri Lanka batsman Sanath Jayasuriya said he feels safe in Pakistan and hoped that a world XI match against Pakistan XI will help in resuming international cricket in the country soon.
Jayasuriya is leading the World XI which will clash against Shahid Afridi-led team in two Twenty20 exhibition matches on Saturday and Sunday.
“I know our team does not include many big names but we have all come here with the hope that our visit will be a small step towards normalcy and return of Test teams to Pakistan,” Jayasuriya,who was part of the Sri Lankan team which was attacked by terrorist in 2009 in Lahore,told reporters after arriving here.
Former South African pacers Nantie Hayward,Andre Nel,West Indian Ricardo Powell are also part of the touring side.
After militants attacked the Sri Lankan team and killed six Pakistani policemen and a van driver apart from wounding some of the visiting players,Test playing nations have refused to play in Pakistan.
The closest to international cricket returning to Pakistan came this year in April when Bangladesh agreed to play a one-day international and a T20 match in Lahore after much persuasion by the Pakistan cricket Board.
But even that tour petered out after the Dhaka high court issued a restraining order against the Bangladeshi cricketer touring Pakistan because of security fears.
In between a Afghanistan A squad has also played in Punjab.
“I know decisions vary from country to country but I feel safe in Pakistan and so far the security and hospitality being provided to us is very good,” Jaysuriya said.
“I know my coming here is significant because it was the Sri Lankan team that was attacked three years back,” he said.
The manager of the touring side,West Indian legend Alvin Kallicharan was more forthright in his remarks to the media.
“Pakistan is an integral part of the world cricket community and one can’t keep on ignoring it even for security reasons for long. Teams must come here or else people specially the children will lose interest in cricket which is the number one sport in Pakistan,” Kallicharan said.
He said the World eleven had come on a private invitation from Dr Mohammad Ali Shah through a sports management company.
“We agreed to come all of us because we believe that even if we can play a small role in eventually helping Pakistan cricket host test teams we would have done our duty for the sport,” he said.
Kallicharan said the players came here because the matches were being held for a good cause to raise funds for the flood victims.
Since the world eleven players started reaching Karachi since Thursday security for them has been stringent as around 5000 policemen and the paramilitary rangers have been deployed at the hotel where the players are staying and at the stadium where the matches would be held.
“The security is elaborate but the plan is being kept a secret even we don’t know how the players will be brought to the stadium or what measures will be taken to keep security tight at the venue,” Nusrat Fahim chief coordinator for the matches said.
Interestingly the Pakistan Cricket Board has also made it clear that security for the matches is the responsibility of Dr Mohammad Ali Shah the chief organizer of the match and minister for sports in Sindh.