COLOMBO: Eight years after a terror attack against a touring Sri Lankan team in Lahore brought top international cricket in Pakistan to a standstill, the Emerald Isles'cricket board has approved a tour to the strife-torn nation comprising three Twenty20 internationals.
Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) chief Thilanga Sumathipala said after a security assessment, the team had been cleared to play three T20Is, including "at least one" in Lahore, scene of the 2009 terror attack on the touring team bus that left eight people dead.
Any tour would require Sri Lankan government approval before the team is sent abroad.
"We have had our security experts visit and make an assessment, and things look positive with things improving all over the country and especially Lahore being cleared," Sumathipala was quoted as saying in a statement at the conclusion of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) meeting here over the weekend.
Addressing the ACC meeting, Sumathipala said: “Cricket is a game of change, chance and chase.
“The game today, and its following is very different to what it was 10 years ago and as administrators we are faced with a different set of challenges to overcome.
“World cricket is in the hands of the unity of Asia. We need to respectfully understand each other’s problems and stand by each other. This is the spirit of the Asian Cricket Council.”
“I am keen to take my team to Pakistan,” he continued. “We have had our security experts visit and make an assessment, and things look positive with things improving all over the country and especially Lahore being cleared. We have three T20 games coming up against Pakistan in September and we would like to play at least one of those games in Lahore.”
Sumathipala further stated: “I call upon each one of you as members to play your role and give Pakistan the security of your support. There is always risk – there were two attacks in London during the Champions Trophy, but cricket continued under the security assurances if the ICC, so likewise we too must be as accommodating and understanding as possible with our members and extend our fullest support to them as the cricketing family of Asia.
“The opportunities available throughout the Asian region for the development of this game that is so close to our hearts is enormous. The efforts and the investment of our member countries are phenomenal and we need to support this development.
“Sri Lanka suffered through three decades of terrorism and war and at one stage no one wanted to come here – Pakistan stood by us then, as did India.
“The values of the game need to be the priority – not always economics, dollars and opportunities. Let the unity of Asia be the prosperity of global cricket.”
The Sri Lankan board statement also quoted Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman and now ACC chief Najam Sethi expounding on the "state-of-the-art security and surveillance systems in place" in Pakistan and explaining that his country was a member of the “Safe-City” initiative at an estimated cost of PKR10 billion ($94.9 million).
Sethi explained that Safe City is a new paradigm to help modern cities combat crime, terrorism and the rising cost of manpower by combining the street patrolman’s intuitive approach with state-of-the-art observation, communication, and information management.
Sri Lanka will play at least one of the three-T20 games in Lahore in September this year if all logistical and operational plans fall in place.
Since 2009, the only international team to visit Pakistan is Zimbabwe, which played five limited-overs games in Lahore in 2015.
Pakistan play their "home" internationals in the United Arab Emirates.
But there were hopeful signs when Pakistan successfully staged the final of the Pakistan Super League in Lahore under heavy security in March.
Pakistan, in its ongoing attempts to bring international cricket back to its shores, is also scheduled to host an ICC World XI team next month for a three-match T20I series.