Top SL players opt out of Pak tour over security fears

Colombo: Top ten Sri Lankan players, including T20 skipper Lasith Malinga and ODI captain Dimuth Karunaratne, pulled out of an upcoming tour of Pakistan citing security concerns, officials said Monday.

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

The Sri Lankan cricket board said national players were briefed on security arrangements for the six-match limited over series, and given the freedom to decide if they wanted to travel.

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, the governing body said.

The other eight who opted out were Thisara Perera, Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Perera, Dhananjaya de Silva, Akila Dananjaya, Suranga Lakmal and Dinesh Chandimal.

Official sources said Karunaratne was most likely to 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.

The tour has been seen as another step towards reviving international cricket in Pakistan after years of isolation.

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.”

This will be Sri Lanka´s second tour of Pakistan since the 2009 attack.

The Sri Lankans returned to Pakistan for a Twenty20 international in Lahore in October 2017 with a squad led by Thisara 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 the venue are 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 many of their home series.