Sri Lankan stars withdraw from Pakistan tour

Ten leading Sri Lankan players have opted out of upcoming limited-overs tour of Pakistan due to security reasons

Ten Sri Lankan players, including T20 skipper Lasith Malinga and ODI captain Dimuth Karunaratne, have pulled out of their upcoming tour of Pakistan due to security concerns.

Following a militant attack on the Sri Lankan team bus during a Test match in Lahore in March 2009, the majority of international teams have refused to tour the South Asian country.

The announcement of a limited-overs tour later this month had been seen as another step towards reviving international cricket in Pakistan after years of isolation.

But the Sri Lankan cricket board announced on Monday that national players had been briefed on security arrangements for the six-match series, and given the freedom to decide if they wanted to travel.

Image Id: B7B228CADDD24A73A4E8768BF56457BD Image Caption: Recent internationals in Pakistan have been played under high security // Getty

Following the briefing, 10 players "chose to stay away" from the series of three one-day internationals and three T20 games, scheduled to begin on September 27 in Karachi.

Along with Malinga and Karunaratne, star players Thisara Perera, Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Perera, Dhananjaya de Silva, Akila Dananjaya, Suranga Lakmal and Dinesh Chandimal all opted out.

Official sources said Karunaratne would most likely be replaced by 30-year-old Lahiru Thirimanne as ODI skipper, while the T20 team is expected to be guided by Dasun Shanaka who celebrated his 28th birthday on Monday.

Shortly before the announcement, batsman Danushka Gunathilaka told reporters that "about 70 percent of players agree (on touring Pakistan) while 30 percent are not happy".

"But, from what they told us, I think there will be very tight security."

Image Id: AA08FCD1D0B14A91B54C6EF7FC2B585C Image Caption: Cricket fans in Pakistan have been starved of top-level cricket // Getty

This will be Sri Lanka's second tour of Pakistan since the 2009 attack. They returned for a one-off Twenty20 international in Lahore in October 2017 with a squad led by Perera, who has decided to stay out of the tour this time.

Sri Lanka are also to play two Test matches against Pakistan, but the dates and host country for those games has yet to be announced.

Sri Lanka's Sports Minister Harin Fernando has rejected playing the longer versions of the game in Pakistan and suggested the Tests be played in the United Arab Emirates, where Pakistan have played most of their home series in the past decade.

Since the 2009 attacks, only Zimbabwe (ODIs and T20s in 2015), Sri Lanka (in 2017) and the West Indies (three T20s in 2018) have played international cricket in Pakistan, while there was also a three-match T20 series against a World XI in Lahore in 2017.

Sri Lanka’s Tour of Pakistan

27 Sep – 1st ODI, Karachi 

29 Sep – 2nd ODI, Karachi 

2 Oct – 3rd ODI, Karachi

5 Oct – 1st T20I, Lahore 

7 Oct – 2nd T20I, Lahore 

9 Oct – 3rd T20I, Lahore