Sri Lanka Cricket is hopeful of naming a strong team for the third and final T20I against Pakistan in Lahore – the first fixture the team will play in Pakistan since 2009, when their team bus was attacked by armed gunman.
Players had raised concerns about travelling to Pakistan, but the board on Monday confirmed that it will be sending a team across. There have been questions around whether SLC would be forced to name a weakened side if players pulled out of the game – limited-overs captain Upul Tharanga has already withdrawn from the squad – however team manager Asanka Gurusinhafelt a competitive team could be named.
“We have to wait and see who the players will be. SLC is expected to tell [chief of selectors] Graeme [Labrooy] what the next step forward is,” Gurusinha said. “There are lots of positives taking place. It is not nice to name them, but there has been positive feedback from most of the players.”
On top of security assurances from Pakistan’s cricket board and government, SLC will be looking to further allay player fears by only staying in Pakistan for 24 hours. SLC has also said its president Thilanga Sumathipala will accompany the team to Lahore, while the board officials had stated earlier that Sri Lanka’s players had been promised the same level of security afforded to the World XI team in September, and that the ICC was also willing to send its match officials to Pakistan.
Gurusinha, speaking ahead of Wednesday’s third ODI, said he was hopeful the players who had raised concerns would “seriously look at” the precautions being taken before coming to a final decision.
“SLC will be speaking to the players to find the best way to handle it. Seems like we will be there in Lahore only for 24 hours. We are flying in and flying out. We are hoping that some of the players who had concerns will seriously take a look at it.”
Gurusinha acknowledged that it was a tough decision to go through with the plan despite player concerns, but explained that Pakistan’s support for Sri Lanka during the 1996 World Cup coupled with the security assurances meant there was little chance of the venue being changed.
“We have to look at both sides. SLC was concerned with security. I am yet to talk to the board, but once security was cleared the board had to send its players.
“[Pakistan] came down to help us two weeks after the Central Bank bombing [in Colombo in 1996]. Had they not come down, I am not too sure whether Kenya and Zimbabwe would have honoured their World Cup fixtures.
“The security [in Pakistan] has been cleared. The team will seriously look at it and I am hopeful players will be happy with the situation.”
A preliminary 22-man squad is expected to be named on Wednesday, which will be cut down to 15 by October 20. (Courtesy ESPN Cricinfo)