Sri Lanka pave way for Pakistan tour return

Eight years after their team bus was attacked by gunmen, Sri Lanka's board have cleared a three-match T20 tour including a return to Lahore

Sri Lanka could be set to return to Pakistan for an international cricket tour eight years after a deadly militant attack on the team after the national cricket board approved plans to tour.

Sri Lanka Cricket president Thilanga Sumathipala said the team had been cleared to play three Twenty20 internationals after a security assessment, including "at least one" in Lahore, scene of the 2009 attack which left eight people dead.

The series could come as soon as next month, although any tour would still require government approval before the team is sent abroad.

It was unclear what impact the proposed tour would have on plans for the ICC's plan of a "World XI" to play T20 matches in the country next month. It had been reported players would be offered up to US$100,000 for the three matches in a bid to get international cricket back into the country.

Only Zimbabwe, in May 2015, have played international cricket in Paksitan since the 2009 assault in which gunmen ambushed the Sri Lankan team bus en route to the Lahore stadium, wounding at least seven players.

"We have had our security experts visit and make an assessment, and things look positive with things improving all over the country and especially Lahore being cleared," Sumathipala was quoted as saying in a statement.

"We have three T20 games coming up against Pakistan in September and we would like to play at least one of those games in Lahore," he added.

Since 2009, the only international team to visit Pakistan is Zimbabwe, who played five limited-overs games in Lahore in 2015. Pakistan play their "home" internationals in the United Arab Emirates.

But there were hopeful signs when Pakistan successfully staged the final of the Pakistan Super League – the rest of which was played in UAE – under heavy security in March.

Addressing the Asian Cricket Council in Colombo at the weekend, Sumathipala called for an end to Pakistan's isolation and urged countries to play there.

He recalled that several top Test nations did not want to visit Sri Lanka at the height of the Tamil separatist conflict, when bombs were exploding in the capital in the mid 1990s.

"Sri Lanka suffered through three decades of terrorism and war and at one stage no one wanted to come here – Pakistan stood by us then, as did India," Sumathipala said.

Sri Lanka ended its long-running ethnic war in May 2009 when the top Tamil rebel leadership was wiped out in a military offensive that sparked allegations that 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed by troops.

The Sri Lankan board statement also quoted Pakistan Cricket Board chief Najam Sethi saying they had set up state-of-the-art security and surveillance to combat crime and make their cities safe.