PCB is keen to add Sri Lanka as neutral venue

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has said that it is looking to add Sri Lanka as a neutral venue when Pakistan play England early next year in a full series. A PCB official said on Wednesday that the Sri Lankan board had indicated it was keen to host the series against England, scheduled for early next year after Pakistan complete a tour to Bangladesh. “England are not keen to play in Pakistan at this stage because of security concerns but are committed to playing the scheduled series early next year. So we are looking at several options as neutral venues and Sri Lanka is among those,” the official said. Sri Lanka Cricket’s secretary Nishantha Ranatunga has been quoted on a cricket website as saying he was ‘very positive’ about Sri Lanka being handed the hosting rights, though the PCB said it is yet to make a decision.

PCB chief operating officer Subhan Ahmed said Sri Lanka was seen as a good option in terms of costs and weather conditions at that time of the year when the series was scheduled. “England are also comfortable about the idea but we have yet to take a decision on this,” he said. One reason for both Pakistan and Sri Lanka looking at hosting the series in the pearl island is that in the past Sri Lanka has drawn good crowds from England even for the Test matches. Pakistan incidentally played all their group matches in Sri Lanka in the recent World Cup. Sources in the PCB said that Sri Lanka was keen to play host for the Pakistan-England series in order to make some money as they are facing a financial crunch.

The sources, however, added that Pakistan was trying to use the series against England to also convince Sri Lanka to come over to Pakistan later this year for one or two limited-over games. “Sri Lanka is due to play against Pakistan in a full series in October-November and the PCB is trying to still convince the Lankans to play one or two games in Pakistan and the rest of the series at any venue outside Pakistan.” Interestingly, Sri Lankan board has conveyed to Pakistan that it is willing to host that series as well. For Pakistan, Sri Lanka may provide a cheaper option for logistical costs than the UAE, where they have been holding most of their ‘home’ internationals.

Last October they hosted South Africa for a full tour and it is believed they are keen to look at other options given the higher costs the UAE incurs. It would also make more sense for England to play the three-match Test series, five-match ODI series in Sri Lanka instead of the UAE, as they are due to tour Sri Lanka soon after, from early March to April 2012.