Terrorism threat throws Sri Lanka cricket tour to Pakistan in doubt


Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) released a statement Wednesday saying it had received “reliable information of a possible terrorist threat” against the national squad and had “sought the assistance of the Sri Lankan Government to conduct a “reassessment of the security situation.”

The decision, the statement read, was taken following a warning received from the Prime Minister’s Office. “Hence, SLC has been advised to take extreme care.”

Responding on its official Twitter account, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said that it had “seen the SLC statement” but was not “privy to any information or intelligence relating to the [the] safety of the Sri Lankan team.”

The PCB said it “reiterates its commitment to provide complete safety and security to the Sri Lankan side and in this relation will continue to work with the SLC.”

A spokesman for the International Cricket Council — the game’s governing body — said that the tour was a “matter between the two boards,” but that it was happy to provide assistance if requested.

Fears from the past

It was just over 10 years ago that 12 gunmen opened fire with automatic rifles on the Sri Lankan team bus as it made its way to the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, Pakistan. Six Pakistani policemen and two civilians were killed.

Seven Sri Lankan players — including star batters Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene — were injured.

Pakistani spectator holds a placard while cheering during the T20 cricket match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka at the Gaddafi Cricket Stadium in Lahore on October 29, 2017.

The incident sent shockwaves through the cricket world.

New Zealand canceled its tour of Pakistan with Bangladesh swiftly following suit, and with teams concerned for their players’ safety, the PCB had to make do with hosting “home” matches in the United Arab Emirates.

The attack effectively confined Pakistan to the fringes of international cricket and since 2009 only 11 T20s and two one-day internationals have been staged in the country and there has been no Test cricket since the Lahore attack.

Earlier this week alarm bells had already sounded when the SLC announced that 10 prominent players would not be traveling to Pakistan for the limited overs series encompassing three one-day internationals — hosted in Karachi — and three T20 internationals — hosted in Lahore.

Leading figures such as Lasith Malinga, Angelo Matthews, Kusal Perera and others pulled out of the tour, which is scheduled to start on September 27 with a one-day international in Karachi.

Lasith Malinga is one of 10  Sri Lankan players to pull out of the forthcoming tour of Pakistan.

These latest security developments could also dent the PCB’s plans to host long-form cricket once again as part of the World Test Championship — a newly formed competition that will, for the first time in the sport’s history, see a team crowned as the best red-ball outfit over a two-year period.

Pakistan is scheduled to host Sri Lanka (December 2019), Bangladesh (January 2020) and South Africa (January 2021) for two Tests each.

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