Sri Lanka do not have best memories of touring Pakistan as the team was attacked by gunmen in 2009. Since that day, international cricket was stopped in Pakistan until a World XI team toured them last month. Sri Lanka did the same on Sunday. They played the third T20I of the series in Lahore and though they lost it, they gave Pakistan fans a reason to smile.
But not everyone in Sri Lanka has a bad memory of Pakistan. Batting coach of the Sri Lanka Hashan Tillakaratne, part of the World Cup winning squad in 1996, said that he has great memories of the country and had no doubt in touring it.
“I have had some great memories here. The World Cup victory in 1996 was here and that’s the happiest day in my life,” Tillakaratne was quoted as saying by Cricbuzz. “I remember we stayed in this very hotel in 1996. It has not changed much. The support the people of Pakistan gave us that night was tremendous. When we landed for the World Cup final, people were standing on roads and gave us a warm welcome. I had no hesitation to come down to Pakistan. It’s the right thing to do. It is our duty to help Pakistan.”
“We faced a similar predicament in 1996 soon after the Central Bank bombing. Had the joint India-Pakistan teams not played that game, our cricket wouldn’t have survived. Not only the West Indies and Australia games would have been shifted, even Zimbabwe and Kenya would have refused to come. It would have been similar to what happened to us in 1987. A bomb went off when the New Zealand team was in Colombo and for the next five years we had no cricket at home. We suffered enough,” Tillakaratne said.
“Our duty is to come and help Pakistan. We are brothers in arms. This is a historical moment for Pakistan and my message to other cricket playing nations is that to come and play in Pakistan.”.
Tillakaratne has played cricket in Pakistan apart from the World Cup as well. He captain the side in 1999 and also won the Asian Test Championships in Lahore.
“Playing against Pakistan is always a challenge. I remember the 1995 tour, it was the first assignment of our new coach Dav Whatmore. We had a three day match which we lost inside two days. The first Test we were beaten in three and half days. Then we regrouped and went onto win the next two Tests and the series. That was followed by the ODI series win and that was the turning point of our cricket,” Tillakaratne explained.
“A few years prior to that series, we toured Pakistan and Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis were at the peak of their prowess. I had a good series and that was the time I gained confidence that I could play quality fast bowling well.”
“We have enjoyed our stay in Lahore so far. We were provided a bullet proof vehicle and the welcome was superb. The security that we are given is unbelievable. There is no reason for anyone to fear touring Pakistan.”