Lankan national cricketers have made a request to change the venue of the third and final T20I scheduled to be played in Lahore, Pakistan, citing security concerns.A letter which was signed by forty national players wants the match either be shifted back to the UAE—Pakistan’s adopted home since 2009—or played at a neutral venue.The players’ request comes as a rude shock to both boards who were quietly confident of ending Pakistan’s international isolation through Sri Lanka’s visit.
Unless the board manages to convince the players, the match, in all probability, will now be shifted to UAE where the rest of the tournament is being played.
The Sunday Times exclusively reported last week that the players have reservations about traveling to the troubled city even though the board has principally agreed to tour.
Sri Lanka are down to play the match on October 29 in Lahore, eight years after gunmen attacked the team bus heading to the Qaddafi Stadium where six Sri Lankan cricketers were injured.
Following the attack, all Test playing nations have refused to tour Pakistan. But the country recently hosted a World XI for a three-match T20 series in a bid to revive international cricket there. The match was played under tight security in Lahore. Sri Lankan cricketer Thisara Perera was part of the World XI team and the Sunday Times learns, he too has signed the letter.
“We made a request from the board to shift it,” a cricketer said, requesting anonymity. “But if the board decides to go ahead with it, it’s up to the individual players to decide whether or not they want to travel to Lahore.”
Sri Lanka will play their first two matches in UAE before moving to Lahore for the last match. Pakistan has promised foolproof security and desperately wants Sri Lanka’s help in its bid to revive international cricket in the country.
“We have concerns,” the player reiterated. “I think even the board understands it, but we will not force anyone to go or not go. It’s solely up to the individual players to decide.”
Even though the board agreed to the tour on principle, they have given the liberty to its players to decide.
Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) Treasurer Shammi Silva said the board will take a final decision on Monday.
“There’s still a 60 to 70 per cent chance of traveling to Lahore,” he said. “We will make a final call on Monday.” He said a security consultant will travel to Pakistan soon to assess the situation.
Meanwhile, Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera said Sri Lanka should respond positively to Pakistan’s request as the nation has been a great friend to Sri Lanka on all fronts.
“We need to support them at this hour of need,” he maintained, adding that he would travel with the team for the Lahore match.
“I hope the match would go ahead as planned,” he continued. “There have been some concerns from players and they can opt out but we are determined to field the best available team for the match.”