ONE: Sri Lankan Squad leave for Pakistan with Prot
Sri Lanka’s depleted national cricket squad left for Pakistan on Tuesday expressing confidence in security promises by the hosts despite reports that the team could be targeted by militants. The Sri Lanka team were attacked in Lahore in 2009. Since then most international teams have refused to tour the South Asian country, leaving Pakistan to play nearly all their “home” games in the United Arab Emirates.
Ten senior players citing security concerns have opted out of the tour comprising three one-day internationals and three Twenty20 matches beginning on Friday. But the captain of the Twenty20 squad, Dasun Shanaka, said Tuesday he had no misgivings about returning to Pakistan after they played a Twenty20 international in Lahore in October 2017, their first since the 2009 attack. “I have been there before,” Shanaka told reporters just before the team left Colombo. I am satisfied with the security arranged for us and I am happy to lead my team to Pakistan. We hope to give a good fight to our very strong hosts.”
ODI skipper Lahiru Thirimanne said he also had no concerns and they had been given assurances of a very high degree of protection in Pakistan, usually reserved for visits by heads of state.
Sri Lanka’s cricket board received the all-clear from the defence ministry last week to go ahead with the tour after establishing that there was no threat. The 2009 attack left six players injured when gunmen attacked their bus. Six Pakistan policemen and two civilians were killed.
* One-day internationals (all in Karachi): September 27, 29, October 2.
* Twenty20 internationals (all Lahore): October 5, 7, 9
TWO: Rex views Pakistani tour as Openings for Young Prospects — See Island, 24 September 2019
Gloss may have been taken off from the highly anticipated return of cricket in Pakistan following the withdrawal of ten leading Sri Lankan players but it provides opportunities for several young players who have been knocking on the doors. The spotlight during the two week long tour where Sri Lanka will play three ODIs and three T-20 Internationals will be on young Sadeera Samarawickrama and Oshada Fernando, two promising batsman.
Fernando’s scintillating batting in South Africa against the likes of Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi was a treat to watch as Sri Lanka completed a remarkable win becoming the first Asian nation to win a series in South Africa. But since then, he has played little international cricket as he had to give up his place once the seniors returned from injury.
The 24-year-old Samarawickrama, a top order batsman who keeps wickets has been equally impressive since making his debut two years ago. His progress has been held back due to lack of opportunities and the tour of Pakistan is an occasion for him to stake claims for a spot in the side. Samarawickrama could hold his place in the side as a batsman alone and came in for high praise from former Indian great V.V.S. Laxman during the tour of India in November 2017. An attractive batsman with a whole range of strokes both on the off-side and leg-side, Samarawickrama has a liking to go after the bowling from the word go. That often proves to be his undoing as well against top class bowling where loose balls tend to be few and rare as the bowlers are on the money.
A tour of India is a huge learning curve for any young player and there’s little doubt that Samarawickrama will have learnt his lessons. Apart from the special skill that he has exhibited at the highest stage, Samarawickrama’s work ethic is second to none. Chairman of Selectors Ashantha De Mel, who has looked for commitment from his charges will see plenty of heart from the young batsman.
Although he is a skilful wicketkeeper, in the past, Sri Lanka have played him as a specialist batsman and he earned the admiration of Indians as he copped a couple of nasty blows fielding at short leg without budging.
The national cricket team will leave SLC headquarters today morning and will arrive in Karachi via Dubai later in the day. The three ODIs will take place at National Stadium in Karachi while Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore will host the three T-20 Internationals.
Top order batsman Lahiru Thirimanne will lead the team in ODIs while all-rounder Dasun Shanaka will take over the reins in T-20s.
Pakistan have been forced to host their home games in United Arab Emirates following the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankans in 2009. Pakistan Cricket Board is hoping to bring international cricket back into the country and the Sri Lankan series will help them to achieve that target.