THE abrupt pullout of leading Sri Lankan cricketers from the upcoming tour of Pakistan is a setback for the Pakistan Cricket Board as well as home fans who had been looking forward to the Islanders’ visit for the six limited-over games to be played in Karachi and Lahore. The players reportedly expressed security concerns as the main reason for their decision. Clearly, the memories of the terrorist incident of 2009, when the Sri Lankan team’s bus was attacked in Lahore, are still fresh in their minds. This is a pity because the security situation here has improved significantly over the past years, and bomb blasts and other terrorist incidents are no longer common occurrences; indeed, the Sri Lankan cricket authorities should have stressed this point to the reluctant players. In this country, meanwhile, there is a feeling among many former cricketers that the PCB did not play its cards right either, and that the board should have set its own conditions instead of agreeing to a depleted touring team. Whether or not one agrees with that view, it is hoped that when the touring side returns to Sri Lanka, it is able to convince those who chose to stay away that they made the wrong decision.
Though major foreign teams have shunned tours to this country in the past decade, Pakistan’s status as a major cricketing nation has not been altered in any way. Pakistan Super League, which ranked as the second most popular T20 league after the Indian Premier League, has attracted leading foreign players to the country in the past two years, including the Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans and the West Indians who have praised the foolproof security arrangements. In 2020, the entire PSL is to be relocated to Pakistan, which will give a big boost to this country’s sporting image. Meanwhile, the PCB should, with the help of the government and its security apparatus, successfully demonstrate to cricket-playing nations that Pakistan is a safe ground for all teams.
Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2019