COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s cricket authorities are reconsidering plans to play a match against Pakistan in Lahore later this month after their players expressed security concerns, officials said on Saturday.

Sri Lanka are currently scheduled to play their third Twenty20 International of the series in Lahore on Oct 29, just over eight years after their national side team was ambushed by gunmen in the same city.

If it goes ahead, the match would be the first played in Pakistan by Sri Lanka — or any other top international team — since militants ambushed its team bus en route to the Gaddafi Stadium in 2009, wounding at least seven players.

But Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) cast doubt on its team’s return to the country on Saturday, saying it would study security assessments provided by both Sri Lanka and Pakistan governments as well as independent reports and possibly make a decision on Monday, an official said.

“A few players have expressed reservations, but about 20 players (out of 40 contracted by the board) have confirmed their willingness to play in Lahore,” the board official told. “A final decision is likely to be taken on Monday.”

Under the current schedule, Lahore would host the Twenty20 series finale following earlier matches between the sides played in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where Pakistan have played their ‘home’ internationals since the ambush.

Since 2009 the only international team to visit Pakistan is Zimbabwe, who played five limited-overs games in Lahore in 2015.

But after Pakistan successfully staged the final of its domestic Pakistan Super League tournament in Lahore under heavy security this March, the country hoped international games could once again be played there.

A successful series against a World XI team featuring top foreign players in Lahore last month further boosted calls for cricket to return to the militancy-racked nation.

SLC chief Thilanga Sumathipala in August appealed for an end to Pakistan’s isolation — a statement welcomed by Pakistani cricket officials — and urged countries to play there.

He recalled that several Test nations did not want to visit Sri Lanka at the height of the Tamil separatist conflict, when bombs were exploding in the capital in the mid-1990s, but Pakistan and India had toured Sri Lanka at the time.

Our Sports Reporter add from Lahore: SLC has not yet confirmed to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) about the decision to play the T20 match in Lahore.

Almost a month has passed since the World XI tour but the PCB has not received any green signal from Sri Lanka regarding the T20.

In case the Sri Lankans agree to tour, their stay in Lahore for the game will be of hardly of 24 to 27 hours.

“Yes, Sri Lankan Cricket has not yet confirmed their team’s visit to Lahore for the T20 match and we are still awaiting it,” a PCB official told Dawn on condition of the anonymity. “The PCB has fulfilled Sri Lanka’s demand of successfully hosting the World XI first, and now it is their turn to come here and play the T20 match.”

Asked if the Sri Lankan cricketers have demanded any extra money in return of touring Pakistan, the spokesman said no such demand has been made from them.

“But if Sri Lanka will table such a demand, the PCB may negotiate it as our first priority is to bring international teams to Pakistan,” he added.

Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2017

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