Sri Lanka is the first major cricket team to schedule international fixture in Pakistan since the 2009 bus attack in Lahore.
After eight long years of Pakistan being shunned as sporting event, hosting the T20 match against Sri Lanka will be marking as a milestone event for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). Sri Lanka is the first major cricket team to schedule international fixture in Pakistan since their players were targeted in a deadly attack in Lahore in 2009.
Despite Pakistan government’s plan to deploy tens of thousands of security personnel in Lahore on Sunday, several Sri Lankan players and officials, including the team’s head coach Nic Pothas have opted out of the T20 fixture. The players’ decision to not visit Pakistan on Sunday came following alarms suggesting probable security breaches amid the ongoing militant attacks in the country.
International cricket had isolated Pakistan from holding any major cricketing events following a Taliban militant attack on Sri Lanka’s bus convoy near the Gaddafi Stadium on March 3, 2009. The deadly attack on the Sri Lankan team claimed the lives of eight and injured another eight.
Among the people injured in the attack was Pakistan’s Ahsan Raza, a reserve umpire in 2009. Being shot Raza had to go through emergency surgery to repair a collapsed lung and damaged liver. However, Raza will be present on the field during the Sundays T20 match at the Gaddafi stadium of Lahore.
Speaking to AFP, Raza said, “It’s a great honour that I will be umpiring in the match which is bringing Sri Lanka back to Lahore. They have set their every fear aside… their tour will have a great impact on the revival of cricket in Pakistan.”
Terming the upcoming T20 match as a “historical moment”, PCB chairman Najam Sethi stated that despite Pakistan being a cricket-crazy country, a generation of the country grew up seeing no international matches on the home ground.
“Our stadiums have remained empty. Now all that is poised to change, for the better… I foresee a full fledged restoration in the next two years,” Sethi told AFP.
The Sunday’s T20 will be the third major international match hosted by Pakistan in the recent days. The other two major matches were the Pakistan Super League final and the match between Pakistan and World XI, held last month.
The first two matches of the three match T20 series between Pakistan and Sri Lanka were held at the United Arabs Emirates (UAE). Among the players who pulled themselves out from the final T20 to be held in Pakistan, are – regular skipper Upul Tharanga, Lasith Malinga, Niroshan Dickwella, Dushmantha Chamera, Akila Dananjaya, Suranga Lakmal, Chamara Kapugedara, the team’s South African head coach Nic Pothas and physiotherapist Nirmalan Thanabalasingham.