It is not easy to wipe away the memories of the 2009 terror attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, Pakistan where the bus carrying the Sri Lankan team was attacked by 12 terrorists wielding automatic weapons en route to the Gaddafi Stadium. Six policemen and two civilians were killed. Whereas, seven of the Sri Lankan players were injured. The images of Sri Lankan players terrified and entering the helicopter whilst running for their lives in the middle of the ground is something that shook the entire cricketing world.
It was natural that when Sri Lanka toured Pakistan recently they were going to be under the veil of high-profile security as Imran Khan could not afford to bear another fiasco on the Pakistani soil. Since 2009, India’s neighbouring island country has only sent a team for a short limited over match to Pakistan in 2017. Even the International Cricket Council, cricket’s highest governing body, was uneasy at the prospect of sending officials to Pakistan for this tour.
Not surprisingly, the ICC requested a security review before it would appoint match officials for the series and presidential level security was provided to the visiting team on the insistence. Instead of providing proper security, the Pakistani administration turned the whole activity into one humongous military exercise. Former Indian cricketer Gautam Gambhir took to Twitter earlier and shared a footage of the Sri Lankan team being escorted to the stadium amidst a massive convoy of security vehicles which made one wonder if it was really required, after all, players are there to play cricket and no one can perform or enjoy their game under such shadow of security and constant fear of being attacked.
Itna Kashmir kiya ke Karachi bhool gaye 👏👏😀 pic.twitter.com/TRqqe0s7qd
— Gautam Gambhir (@GautamGambhir) September 30, 2019
However, the Sri Lankan cricket board President Shammi Silva was not amused despite the security arrangements, he said that having to stay in a hotel and to wait for roads to be closed was not easy. “The players had to stay inside the hotel. I got fed up staying for three or four days. We have to talk to the players and support staff and see how this will affect the Test series,” he was quoted as saying by the Ceylon Daily News.
The visitors were without 10 of their main players who not surprisingly opted out of the tour due to security concerns or if we be blunt for the sake of their lives. The squad was accompanied by SLC President and Secretary and the Sri Lankan Sports Minister. Despite sending their second-string squad to Pakistan, the Sri Lankan cricket team returned home after inflicting a historic 3-0 whitewash against the top-ranked T20I team. It was Sri Lanka’s first whitewash win in a T20 bilateral series away from home.
Sri Lanka is scheduled to return to Pakistan for a Test series in December. But Silva remained cautious and said that the board would need to talk to the players as being cooped up in hotel rooms was not ideal for them. “Pakistan are very happy and grateful to Sri Lanka for sending the team. But we have to assess and see whether it is viable to play Test matches there because they are of five days duration and the players have to be inside the hotel,” he said.
Silva’s remarks must have come as a rude surprise for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) which is keen to build on the recent tour and have the full Sri Lankan team play two Tests of the ICC World Championship in Pakistan in December, and if possible make other International cricket teams tour to Pakistan. The PCB is also trying to host the entire edition of the fifth Pakistan Super League in the country besides inviting Bangladesh to play its Test series in Pakistan.
Nearly all the world’s major cricketing nations have avoided Pakistan out of safety fears. As international games dried up at home, the PCB shifted to the United Arab Emirates to stage its home games in the three cricket formats, but change in venue was marred by low attendances and not being able to build the home-atmosphere in a foreign land, something which does not make up for a good viewing experience on the Television for audience and more so for the players on the field. Even in the concluded series, the stadia’s were mostly empty and it makes one wonder what is the use of bringing back cricket to Pakistan when the fans are not involving themselves in the game.