Sri Lanka may tour Pakistan this year, says top official

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According to Nishantha Ranatunga, the secretary of SLC’s interim committee, Sri Lanka are likely to tour Pakistan later this year for a series of Tests and One-day Internationals. - AFP Photo

COLOMBO: A top official of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) has hinted that his country could be the first one to help bring international cricket back to Pakistan after the horrors of the deadly terrorist attack in Lahore nearly two years ago.

According to Nishantha Ranatunga, the secretary of SLC’s interim committee, Sri Lanka are likely to tour Pakistan later this year for a series of Tests and One-day Internationals and the officials here are already in talks with the International Cricket Council’s Pakistan Task Team (PTT) to look at the possibilities.

“Sri Lanka Cricket will be pleased to honour our FTP [Future Tours Programme] commitment in Pakistan which is scheduled for October- November 2011, where they will play three Tests and five One-day Internationals,” Ranatunga told The Sunday Times.

Ranatunga, the younger brother of Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup-winning captain Arjuna, however conceded that there are major concerns still lingering over the security issues before the tour is given the ‘go-ahead’ signals from the competent authority.

“There are concerns over the tour taking place. Most of the players in the current team were in the middle of that unfortunate incident. We will have to make sure that the players and other officials are safe if the tour goes ahead,” he said.

“If the tour is to become a reality the ICC first should be fully satisfied that the conditions in Pakistan are conducive to stage international cricket.”

Pakistan have been forced to play away from home following the attack on the Sri Lankan team bus on the morning of March 3, 2009, killed eight people, among them seven policemen, and injured six Sri Lankan cricketers as well as Paul Farbrace, who at the time was the assistant coach of the touring side. Pakistani umpire Ahsan Raza was seriously wounded in the attack carried by 12 gunmen when the Sri Lankan and match officials were travelling near the Gaddafi Stadium to resume play on the third day of the second and final Test.

The tragic incident led to a complete blackout of all international cricket from the country with Pakistan also stripped of their rights to host matches of the ongoing World Cup in a major decision undertaken by the game’s governing body.

But Ranatunga assured that if everything falls into place by then, Sri Lanka will bail out one of their closest allies from this standoff.

“Pakistan has stood by us in our difficult times on many issues. They are one of our closest and trusted friends and we are keen to see that the tour takes place as per schedule. But it all depends on the PTT to ease concerns on security issues and if things do improve with the ICC approval, we’ll get the players behind us to ensure things work out accordingly,” he said.