In a major boost to reviving international cricket in Pakistan, Thilanga Sumathipala, SLC president has said Sri Lanka is ‘keen’ to travel to Pakistan after the ACC concluded their Annual General Meeting in Colombo on Saturday (August 12).
The Sri Lankan team was attacked in 2009 by a terrorist group in Lahore on their way to Gaddafi Stadium for the third day’s play of the second Test against Pakistan. The deadly attack had left a few players and officials injured and since then, barring Zimbabwe in 2015, no other international team has visited Pakistan.
However, there has been a welcome change in the stance of International Cricket Council (ICC) and other countries’ official ever since Pakistan successfully hosted the final of Pakistan Super League in Lahore earlier this year.
Earlier this year, the ICC had confirmed its plans of sending a World XI side for a T20 series in Pakistan and now Sumathipala has insisted Sri Lanka would not hesitate in visiting the country. He assured that Sri Lanka are ready to play at least one T20I in Lahore if all logistical and operational plans fall in place.
“Cricket is a game of change, chance and chase,” Sumathipala said. “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. 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 T20I games coming up against Pakistan in September and we would like to play at least one of those games in Lahore,” he added.
Sumathipala further urged other nations to support Pakistan. Citing the attack in London’s example, the Sri Lankan official said the other Asian countries should help in reviving international cricket in Pakistan.
“I call upon each one of you as members to play your role and give Pakistan the security of your support,” he said. “There is always a risk – there were two attacks in London during the Champions trophy, but cricket continued under the security assurances of 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.
“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 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,” he added.
Interestingly, the ACC accepted Pakistan’s plea of shifting the Under-19 Asia Cup out of India. The tournament was scheduled to be held in November in India but will now be played in Malaysia.
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