Sri Lanka captain declares Pakistan '200%' safe for cricket

Updated December 23, 2019

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Sri Lanka’s Test captain Dimuth Karunaratne.— AFP/File
Sri Lanka’s Test captain Dimuth Karunaratne.— AFP/File

Sri Lanka lost the series but signed off satisfied with safety and security measures after Pakistan's first home Test series in 10 years.

Captain Dimuth Karunaratne called the security for the two-Test series "200 per cent" on Monday and promised to return.

The series held major significance for a host nation deprived of international cricket for almost a decade. Pakistan had been forced to play its home series mostly in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) since 2009, when the bus carrying the Sri Lanka team was attacked by terrorists in Lahore. Six policemen and a driver escorting match officials were killed in the attack.

Pakistan hosted brief Twenty20 and one-day international engagements, but this first Test series required a longer stay for Sri Lanka of around 15 days.

"It was 200pc," Karunaratne said of the security. “Really good. They were like fathers for us. They kept talking to us and they were right behind us every time.

"When we were going out to eat or something, they were there. We were feeling secure and safe here. They've done a really good job. Pakistan fans are really good — they kept supporting us.

“What I can say is that it's really safe here and that all the other countries playing cricket can come and play Tests, T20s or one-dayers — it's safe to play in Pakistan."

That was music to the ears of Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Ehsan Mani. "Now the whole world knows cricket has come back to Pakistan and it is completely safe," Mani told a news conference.

"There was no incident and the Sri Lankan players were very happy. If anything, they wanted more freedom of movement and that will happen in due course. When people slowly get more comfortable, that will begin to happen.”

Mani reiterated his pre-series comment that Pakistan will no longer play home Tests overseas. He said Bangladesh was next scheduled to visit Pakistan but was reluctant to play a full series. He said the PCB has turned down Bangladesh's request for a limited tour and asked them to come.

"No one should be under any misapprehension as to where Pakistan's home Tests will take place," he said. "All of Pakistan's matches, against Bangladesh or anyone else, will take place in Pakistan. No one should be in any doubt about this. I still hope the BCB will reflect on the matter and accept there is no reason for them not to visit Pakistan.

"If Sri Lanka can come — and bringing them was very high risk — then it is safe. (Other teams) will have to prove Pakistan is not safe. We think it's safe, and we have shown the world it's safe.

"What happened in Christchurch [with the mosque shootings while Bangladesh was nearby], the incidents that happen in Australia and England happen all around the world. India is in far greater turmoil from a security perspective than Pakistan is.

"We will listen to everyone who is worried about coming here, but ultimately they'll have to prove it isn't safe to come here. I will not take a risk with any players' safety or security."

Pakistan thank Sri Lanka

Pakistani players went to the Sri Lanka dressing room to thank them for helping bring Test cricket back to the country, soon after the home team posted a convincing 263-run win in the second Test of their first home series in a decade.

The victory gave Pakistan a 1-0 series win following the rain-ravaged draw in the first Test in Rawalpindi.

Pakistan captain Azhar Ali said his country owed a big thank you to Sri Lanka.

“They have given us immense happiness by playing in Pakistan,” said Azhar after his team wrapped up victory in just 14 minutes of play on the fifth day.

The skipper said the occasion and win brought happiness to all his players, who had never taken part in a Test match at home.

“It's a great occasion for happiness for all of us that we won the series. It carried great importance and was very significant because we were playing our first home Test,” said Azhar.