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Sports

February 17, 2017

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Fresh wave of bombings leaves plans of Lahore finale in disarray

Fresh wave of bombings leaves plans of Lahore finale in disarray

SHARJAH: Pakistan’s cricket chiefs are having second thoughts about hosting the final of the country’s Twenty20 league in Lahore early next month because of a fresh of bombings that has left dozens dead and hundreds injured.

A powerful bomb blast at the revered shrine of Lal Shehbaz Qalandar in Sehwan, Sindh, on Thursday killed more than 40 people leaving a big question mark over claims that the security situation in Pakistan has improved.

Publicly, top Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) officials continue to insist that they will stage the March 5 final of the HBL Pakistan Super League in Lahore stressing that the people of Pakistan want that to happen. But privately, the Board official admit that with every new bombing back home, their task of convincing overseas stars to come and play in Pakistan is becoming increasingly difficult.

A source in the Board told ‘The News’ that despite the worsening security situation in Pakistan, PSL officials will continue to find ways and means to host the league’s final on home soil.

“There are second thoughts because of the security fears but the Board will leave no stone unturned in its efforts to bring the PSL final to Pakistan,” the source said.

Agencies add: Najam Sethi, the PSL chairman, has reiterated his promise to stage the PSL final in Lahore.

“We are committed to hosting the final in Lahore as our people want it there and it will be a step towards reviving international cricket,” he said in an interview. “VVIP security is ensured.”

Pakistan has not hosted a high-profile foreign team since a 2009 gun and bomb attack on the Sri Lankan cricket side that killed eight people and injured nine others, including visiting players.

Sethi said international players competing in the PSL — a list which includes former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum, West Indian stars Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo, Australia’s Shane Watson, Bangladesh’s Shakib Al Hasan and England’s Twenty20 captain Eoin Morgan — would be asked by February 22 if they are willing to go to Lahore should their team make the final.

“After that those who do not want to go will be replaced with other foreign players who are available for Lahore,” he said.

Officials have already said players will be provided with bullet-proof buses and heavy police protection, among other high-level security measures.

Five teams — Islamabad United, Karachi Kings, Lahore Qalandars, Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiators — are taking part in the league, which reported a healthy $2.6 million profit last year despite being held entirely in the United Arab Emirates.

Pakistan has seen a dramatic improvement in security in the last two years thanks to a military and government crackdown on extremism.

But groups like the Pakistani Taliban retain the ability to carry out spectacular attacks.

The Pakistan Cricket Board have tried to convince the West Indies, Bangladesh, Ireland and Sri Lanka to play in Pakistan in the last five years, but all declined over security fears.

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