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September 12, 2019

Sri Lanka’s Pak tour in jeopardy after ‘terror threat’

Sports

September 12, 2019

KARACHI: On Wednesday afternoon, Sri Lanka’s cricket authorities announced their ODI and T20 squads for the forthcoming tour of Pakistan.

But just hours later, they threw the trip into doubt by declaring that the security will need to be reassessed after Sri Lanka’s government is said to have received news of a “possible terrorist threat on the Sri Lanka team”.

The announcement by Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) must have come as a major setback for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) which busy making arrangements for the six-match series – the longest on home soil in a decade. Sri Lanka are scheduled to play three One-day Internationals in Karachi followed by a three-match T20 series in Lahore in October. The Sri Lankan team was scheduled to leave for the tour in less than two weeks, but the tour now hinges on a “reassessment of the security situation in Pakistan”.

One security assessment - described as “meticulous” by an SLC official - had already been conducted, with the board formerly convinced that the tour was safe. But this new information about a specific threat on the team has sparked fresh fears.

“Sri Lanka Cricket today sought the assistance of the Sri Lankan government to conduct a ‘reassessment’ of the security situation in Pakistan ahead of the national team’s planned tour to Pakistan,” a SLC release said.

“The decision was taken following a warning SLC received from the Prime Minister’s office, sent via the Ministry of Telecommunication, Foreign Employment and Sports. “The warning highlights that the Prime Minister’s Office has received reliable information of a possible terrorist threat on the Sri Lankan team, while touring Pakistan.”

The new information had been received on Tuesday evening by SLC, who had named their ODI at T20 squads for the tour late in the afternoon. With 10 frontline players already having refused to tour Pakistan, this new perceived threat may create apprehension among even the players who have agreed to travel.

Meanwhile, PCB has stressed that it was fully committed to provide complete security to the visiting Sri Lankan team. “We have seen the SLC statement, but are not privy to any information or intelligence report relating to safety of the SL team,” a PCB spokesman said.

The PCB reiterates its commitment to provide complete safety and security to the Sri Lankan side and in this relation will continue to work with the SLC,” he added. Earlier, Lahiru Thirimanne and Dasun Shanaka were named Sri Lanka’s ODI and T20I captains respectively for the limited-overs tour of Pakistan.

The announcement came two days after Dimuth Karunaratne and Lasith Malinga, the incumbents, informed the Sri Lanka Cricket of their unwillingness to tour Pakistan, along with eight others, citing security concerns.

Minod Banuka, the 24-year old wicketkeeper-batsman, is the only uncapped member in the 15-man ODI squad. Banuka along with Bhanuka Rajapaksa are the two uncapped names in the T20I squad. Banuka has been part of Sri Lanka’s Emerging squad while Rajapaksa was on Sri Lanka A’s tour of India in June.

Danushka Gunathilaka, who was dropped for the home ODIs against Bangladesh along with left-arm wristspinner Lakshan Sandakan have also been included in both squads. Thanks in part to the withdrawals, batsman Oshada Fernando also finds himself back in the ODI squad, following an encouraging start to his career in South Africa earlier this year. He’s been picked for the T20s as well.

The attacks will ostensibly be led by Nuwan Pradeep, as well as left-armer Isuru Udana, who is missing the Caribbean Premier League to be available for this tour. Younger quicks Lahiru Kumara and Kasun Rajitha are also in both squads.

Sri Lanka and Pakistan are scheduled to play three ODIs in Karachi on September 27, 29 and October 3 before they move to Lahore for the T20I leg that concludes on October 9. ODI squad: Lahiru Thirimanne (capt), Danushka Gunathilaka, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Avishka Fernando, Oshada Fernando, Shehan Jayasuriya, Dasun Shanaka, Minod Bhanuka, Angelo Perera, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lakshan Sandakan, Nuwan Pradeep, Isuru Udana, Kasun Rajitha, Lahiru Kumara

T20I squad: Dasun Shanaka (capt), Danushka Gunathilaka, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Avishka Fernando, Oshada Fernando, Shehan Jayasuriya, Angelo Perera, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Minod Bhanuka, Lahiru Madushanka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lakshan Sandakan, Isuru Udana, Nuwan Pradeep, Kasun Rajitha, Lahiru Kumara. —with inputs from agencies

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