When Thisara Perera lands in Lahore, he will be stunned at the hospitality awaiting him. He is a star here. His billboards are all over Lahore. Posters of his players also are seen all over the road with Punjab Government in Lahore set to put up a great show as the Sri Lankan cricket team brings international cricket back to the country.
Pakistani policemen stand guard at an entrance of the Gaddafi Cricket Stadium ahead of the last T20 cricket match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka, in Lahore yesterday, October 28. Tens of thousands of security will be deployed in Lahore on October 29 when Sri Lanka become the first major cricket team to visit Pakistan since they were targeted in a deadly ambush in 2009. (Aamir Qureshi / AFP
Since the attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009, there has been little cricket in Pakistan. A World XI team had come to Lahore last month and Zimbabwe visited the country for a short series in 2015, but the return of Sri Lanka is significant as it was their team bus that was attacked nine years ago.
At the team hotel – Pearl Continental – heavily armed gunmen protect the location. Even the residents at the hotel have to come through metal detectors and then body searches. Vehicles entering the hotels are thoroughly checked and no vehicle is allowed towards the hotel lobby area.
At the lobby is a massive banner that says, ‘Sri Lanka’s is Pakistan’s best friend in cricket’.
The game will be played at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, a venue that has given Sri Lankans both thrilling and devastating memories. It was here Sri Lanka won the 1996 World Cup. Thirteen years later, the Sri Lankan team bus was shot at, a stone’s throw away from the same venue.
A visit to the Gaddafe Stadium gives you goose bumps. All entry points to the ground have been cordoned off and fans will have to work a significant distance to watch the game. Roads were closed on Saturday itself as security personnel were conducting rehearsals. Again heavily armed elite forces protect the venue. The Punjab Government has deployed a total of 20,000 security personnel to ensure the Sri Lankans will have a safe stay.
The Sri Lankans were expected to land in Lahore at 2:30am. The game will get underway at 6:00pm local time (6:30 SL time). Initially the team was expected to catch the SriLankans airlines flight to Colombo scheduled at 00:30 on Monday. However, some technical issues forced them to abandon the idea. Now the team will stay for three more hours before travelling on Emirates via Dubai.
The game will bring to a conclusion Sri Lanka’s five-week tour.
Michael Roberts: “Cricket under Siege: The Lahore Attack, 3 March 2009,” in Roberts, Incursions & Excursions in and around Sri Lanka Cricket Colombo, Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2011 …… ISBN 978-955-53198-0-5
Michael Roberts: Lahore, 3 March 2009: When Terror Hit World Cricket,” 30 October 2017, https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/lahore-3-march-2009-when-terror-hit-world-cricket/ ….. ALSO in https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2017/10/30/when-terrorism-assailed-cricket-at-lahore-3-march-2009-a-cumulus-cloud-of-questions/