Test cricket might just return to Pakistan later this year. Sri Lanka could be open to playing at least one Test in the country, after a security delegation visited Lahore and Karachi, and gave SLC “very positive feedback”. If everything goes to plan, Pakistan could host its first Test match since the Lahore attack on Sri Lanka’s team bus in March 2009.
The series against Sri Lanka, Pakistan’s first of the World Test Championship, was originally supposed to be played at a neutral venue, but the PCB made SLC an offer to play in Pakistan. With the offer in mind, SLC sent a security delegation headed by Mohan de Silva to assess security arrangements.
The security report, ESPNcricinfo understands, was tabled on Friday in Colombo. “The feedback we got from the security team was very positive,” SLC CEO Ashley de Silva said. “We’ll be talking to the PCB about some alternatives before we arrive at a decision. The government will be consulted as well.”
The biggest concern is understood to be obtaining the players’ consent to tour Pakistan. A Sri Lanka team played one T20I in Lahore in October 2017, but did so without a number of its prominent names. Sri Lanka’s then T20I captain, Upul Tharanga, pulled out, along with Lasith Malinga, Niroshan Dickwella, Suranga Lakmal and Akila Dananjaya. The team was captained by Thisara Perera, and the then SLC president Thilanga Sumathipala and sports minister Dayasiri Jayasekara accompanied the side to Lahore. The brief tour was successful, and was a major stepping stone that paved the way for PCB to convince teams to play more international cricket in Pakistan.
If Sri Lanka do play Test cricket in Pakistan, it will be a reciprocal gesture of sorts. The PCB was the first board to send a team to Sri Lanka following the April 21 bombings in Sri Lanka this year, a Pakistan Under-19 team touring the island a month after the attacks.
There was no top-rung international cricket in Pakistan for six years, following the 2009 Lahore attack, but since 2015, the country has hosted limited-overs games featuring Zimbabwe (2015), World XI (2017), Sri Lanka (2017) and West Indies (2018) apart from a number of Pakistan Super League (PSL) matches. A number of high-profile players have been part of these tours; the World XI side, for instance, was coached by Andy Flower and included five players from South Africa – including Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla – three from Australia, two from West Indies and one player each from England, Bangladesh, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.
These matches have made some headway towards changing the perception of Pakistan among potential visiting teams, and recently the PCB managing director Wasim Khan presented the country’s case before the MCC World Cricket Committee. He emphasised the importance of bringing international cricket back to Pakistan, and invited the MCC to visit.
“It was a very positive meeting with the MCC,” Wasim said. “Shane Warne, Kumar Sangakkara and Mike Gatting, the chair of the committee, were present there. They wanted to me to present on the current security in the country, along with what impact playing no international cricket here has had, and what can be done to restore it.
“I am very, very confident that we will have an MCC team touring us in the near future. But, there are some matters related to security that need to be covered before they send their team. We will work very closely with the MCC to make sure that the tour happens.”
The MCC World Cricket Committee, headed by Gatting, expressed its support to see the resumption of tours to the nation after 10 years, and said the MCC would be interested in sending a touring team of its own by way of re-opening the door – final security checks pending as ever.
With additional reporting by Andrew Fidel Fernando