About a fortnight after the Indian tennis team refused to travel to Pakistan for their Asia/Oceania Group I Davis Cup tie citing security concerns, 10 frontline Sri Lankan cricketers have decided not to go to Pakistan for the forthcoming limited-overs series.
Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Dimuth Karunaratne, Dinesh Chandimal, Thisara Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Perera, Dhananjaya de Silva and Akila Dananjaya have pulled out of the limited-overs tour, putting a serious question mark over international cricket’s unhindered return to Pakistan and also upsetting the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) plans to host the World Test Championship matches at home rather than in UAE.
When contacted by The Indian Express, PCB chairman Ehsan Mani refused to comment on the development. “We are in touch with the Sri Lankan board, but basically I cannot say anything at the moment,” he told this paper.
Although, the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) was satisfied with the the security arrangements for the tour, it has decided to respect the players’ wishes. Following a meeting with the players on Monday, an SLC release confirmed that the cricketers won’t face any disciplinary action. Nor will their decision to pull out jeopardise their selection for future series. Notably, both Karunaratne and Malinga, Sri Lanka’s ODI and T20 skippers respectively, have refused to travel to Pakistan.
“Former Sri Lanka Air Force Commander, Marshal Air Roshan Goonetileke, who is the Chief Security Advisor of the SLC, briefed the players about the security situation in Pakistan and the security arrangements PCB plans on implementing during Sri Lanka team’s tour of that country, whilst Chairman of the National Selection Panel Mr. Asantha De Mel, explained about the selection policy for future tours,” the SLC release stated, adding: “He (De Mel) said, players will be given the freedom to decide on either taking part or not in the forthcoming Pakistan tour.
The SLC mentioned that following the meeting with the players, the national selectors have picked the ODI and T20I squads that will be sent for Sri Lankan Sports Minister Harin Fernando’s approval.
Meanwhile, the BBC Sinhala Service has quoted the Sri Lankan Sports Minister as saying: “I have been told by some of the players that they cannot participate after their families raised concerns.”
As of now, Sri Lanka are scheduled to play three ODIs against Pakistan in Karachi on September 27, 29 and October 2, and three T20 internationals in Lahore on October 5, 7 and 9. However, it would be interesting to see if the PCB is willing to host a weakened Sri Lankan side, as it might have negative commercial implications. At the same time, the cancellation of the series could even have diplomatic implications.
With regards to Test cricket’s return to Pakistan, this is apparently a big setback for the PCB. Pakistan are scheduled to host Sri Lanka for the World Test Championship matches in December. The PCB wanted to use the forthcoming limited-overs series to make a statement; that Pakistan is a safe place to play international cricket. The latest development could seriously upset the apple cart.
The Sri Lankan team had been at the receiving end of the March 3, 2009 Lahore attack, an incident that took international cricket away from Pakistan. But Sri Lanka, led by Thisara Perera, had travelled to Pakistan in 2017 to play a one-off T20 international. This time though, the senior allrounder, too, has opted out.
It is learnt that during its discussion with the Sri Lankan board, the PCB will stress on how it stood by Sri Lankan cricket after this year’s Easter attacks on the island nation by sending the Pakistan U-19 team there to play five one-dayers. And while reaffirming the top-level security arrangements, the PCB will also request its Sri Lankan counterpart to persuade the unwilling cricketers to have a rethink. Hectic parleys between the two cricket boards are expected in the next few days.