COLOMBO: Ten Sri Lankan players, including Test and ODI captain Dimuth Karunaratne and veterans Lasith Malinga and Angelo Mathews, have opted out of the coming tour of Pakistan over security concerns, the country’s cricket board (SLC) said on Monday.
Sri Lanka are due to tour Pakistan to play three One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and three Twenty20 Internationals to be played between Sept 27 and Oct 9. The board held a meeting with the players recently to discuss security arrangements for the tour.
Pakistan are looking to host their first Test on home soil — as part of the World Test Championship in December — since a 2009 militant attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore left six security personnel and two civilians dead while six players were injured.
Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) said in a statement that players in a preliminary squad were briefed on security arrangements for the six-match limited over series, and given the freedom to decide if they wanted to travel or not. But following the briefing, 10 players “chose to stay away”.
“The meeting was aimed at informing the players about security arrangements during the forthcoming tour and also to find out their ‘decision’ [either taking part or not] before... the selection of squads for the ODI and T20I series,” the board said in a statement.
The other players who chose not to visit Pakistan were former T20 skipper Thisara Perera, Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Perera, Dhananjaya de Silva, Akila Dhananjaya, Suranga Lakmal and Dinesh Chandimal.
Batsman Kusal Mendis was unavailable for selection due to an injury.
The tour was seen as another step towards reviving international cricket in Pakistan after years of isolation.
Batsman Danushka Gunathilaka said he believed security would be adequate.
“From what they told us, I think there will be very tight security,” Gunathilaka said.
Last month, the SLC and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) agreed to bring forward the limited-overs leg of the split series and pushed back the two Tests, which were originally set to take place next month.
Pakistan did not host international cricket for six years following the 2009 attack, with the team playing their home matches in the United Arab Emirates, but have hosted teams such as Zimbabwe and West Indies in recent years.
The Sri Lankans came to Pakistan for a Twenty20 International in Lahore in Oct 2017 when Thisara Perera led the team, but this time he has decided to stay away.
Sri Lanka’s Sports Minister Harin Fernando has rejected playing the longer versions of the game in Pakistan and suggested the Tests be played in the United Arab Emirates.
Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2019