Lankan crick­eters are still on the de­fen­sive

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS - By Champika Fer­nando

Even though Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) has prin­ci­pally agreed to tour Pak­istan to­wards the tail-end of the cur­rent se­ries sub­ject to se­cu­rity clear­ance, there’s a greater pos­si­bil­ity of the match be­ing shifted to Pak­istan’s adopted home—UAE.

SLC will send an in­de­pen­dent se­cu­rity ex­pert to as­sess the sit­u­a­tion later this week be­fore a fi­nal call but whether coun­try’s crick­eters would want to take the risk re­mains doubt­ful.

Sri Lanka are down to play the third and fi­nal T20 in­ter­na­tional in La­hore on Oc­to­ber 29, eight years af­ter gun­men at­tacked the team bus head­ing to the Qaddafi Sta­dium there for the third day’s play of the sec­ond Test against Pak­istan. Six Sri Lankan crick­eters were in­jured.

“As much as we un­der­stand the need to help Pak­istan at this mo­ment, we need to grasp the men­tal­ity of the play­ers here," said a na­tional crick­eter, on con­di­tion of anonymity. "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.

Fol­low­ing the at­tack, lead­ing teams re­fused to tour Pak­istan but re­cently the coun­try 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 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 said the play­ers would not be pe­nal- ised 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 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."

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, the Sun­day Times learns that Pak­istan, who are des­per­ate to re­vive cricket, are try­ing ev­ery­thing-- in­clud­ing high-level diplo­matic ma­neu­ver­ing--to get Sri Lanka down.

The Lankans might be com­fort­able of be­ing first and last to con­front a ter­ror­ist at­tack

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