A high profile team of Sri Lanka Cricket officials have returned home from a pilot tour of Pakistan and they will be providing their observations whether the national cricket team should travel to Pakistan to help them resume Test cricket. Pakistan Cricket Board was forced to make United Arab Emirates their adopted home after the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus.
As a goodwill gesture Sri Lanka visited Lahore in November 2017 to play a one off T-20 International. In that instance, however, the team stayed in Pakistan for less than 24 hours. Test cricket is a different ball game and the team will have to stay there for a longer period of time.
The idea is to play both Tests in Pakistan – one in Karachi and one in Lahore. PCB would be glad even if SLC agrees to play one game in Pakistan with the other taking place in UAE.
The visiting Sri Lankan contingent comprised of SLC Secretary Mohan De Silva and former Air Force chief Roshan Gunathilalka. They will submit their report with their recommendations to SLC. The Sri Lankan contingent did not merely visit the grounds and hotels, they also visited the cities to get an idea as to how life has returned to normal in Pakistan.
However many positives the contingent will spell out in their report, eventually it will up to the players to decide whether they want to make the trip or not.
The last time it happened in 2017 many players withdrew forcing SLC to send a second string team. With the World Test Championship in place, SLC will not be able to try out a similar exercise this time around as so much is at stake if premier players don’t turn up for the event. Basically whether Test cricket will return to Pakistan or not is a point for the players themselves to decide. Eventually it is they who will be giving the green light for the tour.
Obviously it will be a tough call for someone like Suranga Lakmal. He was on that team bus during the attack. It was his first tour with the senior side. Lakmal still carries the scars of the shoot-out and much more. On his left thigh, Lakmal is carrying a piece of metal having been severely injured during the attack. As a result, if Lakmal goes for a medical scan on his left foot, it comes blank due to the presence of the foreign object.
That’s not all. He has trouble getting through airports as metal detectors beep every time he attempts to go past them. He has to explain things to airport authorities and carries medical reports with him to prove his case. Given his English skills are limited, often the team manager has to come to his aid. Lakmal has delayed surgery as he had been told that he will be out of cricket for nearly a year if he goes under the knife. He intends to complete surgery after he retires from cricket.
No doubt that Pakistan has made giant strides since the attack. Most parts of Pakistan have returned to normalcy and those players who visited the country in 2017 would vouch that the security that was provided to them was top class. Roads were closed down when the team travelled and their hotel – Pearl Continental – was protected by several layers of security. Whether all these have done enough to convince players to tour Pakistan again will be known soon.
Sri Lanka’s tour is massively important for Pakistan as this can be a start and they can convince other teams too to start touring. By hosting their games away from home PCB has suffered heavily. To start with it is costing them an arm and leg to host games in UAE. The public also are starved of cricket. When your younger generation grows up watching little cricket, it can hamper the development of the sport in the country.
Sri Lanka were in similar predicament from 1987 to 1992 when no team toured the island. Our case was even worse as we couldn’t play at neutral venues and some of our fine talents during the peak of their careers were limited to play only away.
Several players from Ranjan Madugalle to Amal Silva retired prematurely because opportunities were few and rare for them.
The point that people need to understand is that terrorism is not limited to Pakistan these days. Disgruntled elements constantly look to carry out inhuman attacks and the intelligence has to be top class in order to prevent these attacks.
Furthermore, Pakistan has been a dear friend that has helped us in times of need and it’s our turn to support them.