Pakistan, Sri Lanka yet to agree on series dates: Clouds of uncertainty loom over January-February contest
LAHORE, Dec 30: Though permission has been given by Sri Lanka’s president to his cricketing authorities to go ahead with the tour of Pakistan next month, differences over some of the terms and conditions between the two cricket boards have dimmed the chances of the series to be held on the proposed dates.
The two cricket boards were to confirm and announce the itinerary for the tour on Tuesday but it had to be delayed by a day.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) invited Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) after India’s refusal to tour Pakistan from Jan 4, owing to their security fears backed by tense political relations after the Nov 26 Mumbai incident.
“SLC’s internal meeting continued till late and they will be informing us about their final decision on Wednesday,” PCB Director International Cricket Zakir Khan told Dawn.
Late on Tuesday, according to sources, the PCB has sent a letter to the SLC, asking them to consider the importance of the proposed series for Pakistan, before taking any decision about the fate of the tour on Wednesday.
However, sources said that the two boards were not agreeable both on the number of matches as well as on the timeframe set for the tour.
According to the itinerary which the PCB had sent to SLC for approval, the tour comprises three Tests and five One-day Internationals to be played from Jan 20 to Feb 25.
But now SLC is insisting on a tour from Feb 15 to March 7, comprising two Tests, three ODIs and one Twenty20.
The PCB had already eliminated the Twenty20 match on the request of SLC’s previous management, headed by Arjuna Ranatunga, and it had been agreed that the series will have three Tests and five One-day Internationals. But soon after the agreement, Ranatunga was sacked by their sports minister and the new management put forward new conditions.
According to the sources, the PCB was not agreeing with anyone as it considers all as unwise.“When both cricket boards have appropriate time from Jan 20 to Feb 25, it looks unwise to put it forward,” a key PCB official said on the condition of anonymity.
“The SLC also suggested to the PCB to change the schedule of their [Pakistan] tour of Bangladesh [five ODIs] from March to January-February and then host them,” the sources said.
But the PCB, sources added, are not agreed to that proposal since it does not want to make any changes to their tour of Bangladesh, as it has already been approved by the ICC.
Sources further added that certain quarters not interested in Pakistan hosting the ICC Champions Trophy were trying to pressurise the SLC not to tour Pakistan.
“Instead of clearly saying ‘No’, the SLC is indirectly trying to cancel the tour by putting forward new conditions,” sources claimed.
Certain quarters believe that if Sri Lanka complete a successful tour of Pakistan without any security problems, it would give weight to the PCB’s stance for holding the Champions Trophy in September next year.
The ICC had already postponed in September this year to next September after some member countries were reluctant to tour Pakistan due to security concerns.
It is being said that if Sri Lanka sends their team here from Jan 20, it will make the PCB’s case to retain the hosting rights of the Champions Trophy strong in the ICC meeting to be held on Jan 31.
Under current circumstances, Pakistan do not have the support of India for retaining the Champions Trophy rights. The ICC will be in a comfortable position to shift it from Pakistan to another country.
Moreover, soon after Ranatunga’s accepting the PCB’s offer, some quarters expressed that the ICC was facing problems in appointing the umpires for the series as many were reluctant to visit Pakistan due to security.
India had earlier supported Pakistan’s case, compelling the ICC not to shift the Champions Trophy from Pakistan but allowed to postpone it for September next year.
As the said tour is important enough to bring back cricket to Pakistan, the PCB is even ready to bear financial losses. But the powers looking to isolate Pakistan go all out to do the damage.