In a big setback to a full-scale return of international cricket to Pakistan, 10 Sri Lanka cricketers have opted out of the forthcoming tour to Pakistan where the team is scheduled to play three-match ODI and T20I series.
Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) held a meeting with the players to inform them about the security arrangements before the selection of squads. Former Sri Lanka Air Force Commander, Marshal Air Roshan Goonetileke is the Chief Security Advisor of the SLC. He told players about the security situation in Pakistan and the security arrangements the PCB plans to implement during Sri Lanka team's tour.
However, following the meeting, 10 players chose not to take part in the series.
Lasith Malinga, who led the team during their T20I series against New Zealand, is among the cricketers who have decided against playing the series.
Other players who have opted out of the tour are Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Janith Perera, Dhananjaya De Silva, Thisara Perera, Akila Dhananjaya, Angelo Mathews, Suranga Lakmal, Dinesh Chandimal, and Dimuth Karunaratne.
International cricket teams had stopped touring Pakistan following an attack on a bus carrying Sri Lanka cricket team in 2009. The team was travelling to the Gaddafi Stadium to play third day of the second Test against Pakistan when a a group of terrorists shot at the bus, injuring six Sri Lankan cricketers while six Pakistani policemen and two civilians were killed.
Sri Lanka batsman Thilan Samaraweera was the most seriously injured player, taking a bullet on his left thigh. The Sri Lanka's team's assistant coach Paul Farbrace was also injured in the attack.
The series was abandoned post the attack and the visiting team left to Sri Lanka in a quick time.
Since the attack, Pakistan have played most of their ‘home’ matches in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) while they also played two Test matches against Australia at Lord’s and Headingley.
Pakistan were the co-hosts of the 2011 Cricket World Cup, but the ICC stripped the country of hosting rights due to security concerns and their matches were distributed to India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
First tours to Pakistan after the attack
In 2013 and 2014, Afghanistan and Kenya travelled to Pakistan to play unofficial matches. Afghanistan played two ODIs and one T20 while the Kenyan side participated in the five limited-overs matches against Pakistan 'A'. On both occasions, hosts won all their matches.
In 2015, Zimbabwe became the first Test team to tour Pakistan in almost six years. They played two T20Is and three ODI matches in Lahore, with the team receiving state-guest-level security. Once again, Pakistan won all the matches except for the last ODI, which was washed out.
Pakistan Super League 2017 final in Lahore
Despite the series against Zimbabwe, international cricket teams were still not comfortable touring Pakistan. A significant breakthrough happened when on 5 March, 2017, Lahore hosted the final of Pakistan Super League, which resulted in a few foreign players travelling to Pakistan. This was a deliberate effort from Pakistan Cricket Board to bring international cricketers to the country. The league matches were played in the UAE, but for the final between Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiators, foreign names such as Dawid Malan, Marlon Samuels, Darren Sammy, Chris Jordan, Morne van Wyk, Sean Ervine and Rayad Emrit featured for their respective teams.
World XI side visits Pakistan
A few months after the Pakistan Super League final, a World XI side, led by Faf du Plessis went to Pakistan to play three official T20s in Lahore. Apart from Du Plessis, other international cricketers who played for the team are Tamim Iqbal, Tim Paine, Hashim Amla, David Miller, Grant Elliott, Thisara Perera, Darren Sammy, Ben Cutting, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir, Samuel Badree, Paul Collingwood and George Bailey.
Pakistan won the series 2-1, but more than the victories, it was a big step towards the return of international cricket in the country.
Sri Lanka returns to Pakistan in 2017
For the first time in nine years, Sri Lanka cricket team visits Pakistan to play an international T20 match. This was the last T20I of their away series, with earlier matches being played in UAE. The match was played in Lahore with Thisara Perera captaining the visiting side after several big names pulled out from the match.
Perera also travelled earlier with the World XI side, so it is a bit surprising that he has decided to skip the 2019 tour citing security reasons.
Pakistan Super League 2018 final in Karachi
Teams and players were comfortable travelling to Lahore but the Pakistan Cricket Board wanted the players to play in Karachi as well. In 2018, the PCB shifted the last three matches of the league to Pakistan with two semi-finals being played in Lahore and the final in Karachi. This time, international cricketers like Sammy, Andre Fletcher, Liam Dawson, Luke Ronchi, Chadwick Walton, JP Duminy and Smit Patel played the final in Karachi.
West Indies tour of Pakistan in 2018
West Indies agreed to travel to Pakistan to played three T20Is in 2017 but then logistical issues and problems with security resulting in the postponement of the series. West Indies finally came in April and played three back-to-back matches in Karachi. Some big names in West Indies cricket like Carlos Brathwaite, Jason Holder, Chris Gayle and Devendra Bishoo did not make themselves available for the tour. Jason Mohammed captained the side and Pakistan won the series 3-0.
West Indies women's cricket team tour of Pakistan in 2019
After the men's side, the Windies women's cricket toured Pakistan in April this year to play three T20Is in Karachi. Skipper Stafanie Taylor did not travel with the squad so in her absence, Merissa Aguilleira was the captain while Shakera Selman was named vice-captain. West Indies won the series 2-1.
With inputs from Agencies