Islamabad: Sri Lanka's cricket team arrived in Pakistan on Monday to play two-Test series that will be the first Tests in Pakistan in over a decade.
Sri Lanka were the last team to play a Test in Pakistan in 2009 before the team came under terrorist attack at Lahore and the doors to international cricket were closed on Pakistan.
Eight people were killed and several Sri Lankan players and team officials were injured during the attack.
“It’s a huge day for all the Pakistanis and we have been waiting for this day for quite some time,” Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ehsan Mani said. “It will send a strong message to the whole cricketing world that Pakistan has the ability to host all its home matches in Pakistan.”
The PCB has been trying for the last four years to convince foreign teams to play in Pakistan. Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, West Indies and World XI toured Pakistan during this period but all these matches were either ODIs or Twenty20s.
The Test series in Pakistan was made possible after Sri Lanka toured three months ago and played a ODI and a Twenty20 series at Karachi and Lahore without any security trouble.
Pakistan's government has promised top-level security, normally reserved for heads of state. The two Test matches will be played at Rawalpindi and Karachi.
A security force of over 4,000, including policemen from Punjab province and the Pakistan Army, will be deployed around the Pindi Cricket Stadium where first test starts on Wednesday. Karachi will host the second test from 19-23 December.
“We have suffered a lot for the last 10 years and I really want to thank all the (security) forces, especially the Pakistan Army, for making this dream come true,"Mani, the PCB chairman said.
“I also want to thank the Sri Lanka Cricket for showing confidence in Pakistan’s abilities to host international matches and I think the doors of international cricket will be completely opened for Pakistan.”
PCB’s director cricket operations Zakir Khan welcomed the Sri Lanka team members at Islamabad International Airport before the team drove to the hotel amid tight security on Monday.
Sri Lanka suffered a setback just before the departure from home when fast bowler Suranga Lakmal was ruled out due to dengue fever. He was replaced by Asitha Fernando, who has played for Sri Lanka’s under-23 and emerging teams.
The team will be led by Dimuth Karunaratne and includes seasoned players like Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal. The three players were among 10 high-profile Sri Lanka cricketers who refused to tour Pakistan three months ago due to security concerns.
The PCB has invited Sri Lanka’s former captain Bandula Warnapura and Pakistan ex-test captain and coach Javed Miandad for the Rawalpindi test.
Warnapura and Miandad led their respective nations during the first-ever test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka at Karachi in 1982. Pakistan won that Test by 204 runs.
“Wednesday will be a very special day in Pakistan cricket history and it is appropriate that it is celebrated with Bandula Warnapura and Javed Miandad on our side. They are icons of cricket, whose services to the game are unmatched.”
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