Thilanga Sumathipala, Sri Lanka Cricket’s president, has vowed to support Pakistan in their bid to host top-flight cricket on a regular basis. He was speaking at a media conference in Lahore, during Sri Lanka’s short visit for the third T20I.
“Since we have experienced more than 30 years of war, we know what isolation means,” Sumathipala said. “We have gone through more than 30 years of war in Sri Lanka, but Pakistan has never cancelled a single game of cricket which we agreed to play against each other in Sri Lanka.
“There are various [types of] people. We appeal to them to keep children, women, religious places and sports aside. Leave us alone, let us play our game of cricket in peace and harmony. We want to enjoy the game of cricket and give everyone opportunities and a chance to share our happiness in the game.”
Since the attack on the Sri Lankan team nearly nine years ago, Pakistan have been trying to convince the world to visit, but had not managed to convince teams to tour until 2015, when Zimbabwe visited for a short series.
But the first real sign of cricket returning on a more regular basis was taken earlier this year when a number of international cricketers featured in the final of the Pakistan Super League. Then, in September, Pakistan hosted a World XI, coached by Andy Flower and captained by Faf du Plessis, for a three-match series. Sri Lanka’s short trip is the latest step in the PCB’s efforts to convince international sides to tour the country.
“Good or bad, Pakistan cricket and the government of Pakistan have stood by Sri Lanka,” Sumathipala said. “This is not a matter of just government. As you all understand, since the last incident was against Sri Lanka, the sentiments were quite different. We thought we should take the initiative and support Pakistan cricket.
“If Pakistan is weak in cricket, Asian cricket will be weaker and that will make world cricket weaker and weaker. Your strength is our strength and it’s our responsibility to look after each other. We strongly believe in that.”
The one-off match in Lahore was played underÃ‚Â extraordinary security arrangements, with thousands of armed policemen deployed between the stadium and team hotel. The arrangements were similar to the security protocol followed for a presidential visit.
“The arrangements made for the team and spectators are very much satisfactory,” Sumathipala said. “You deserve regular good cricket being played in your country. It is such a wonderful country that has produced so many talented cricketers. We don’t want anyone to fear and leave Pakistan away from international cricket. We encourage Asian regions to play more games in Lahore and in other [Pakistan] cities if possible one day.
“As far as SLC is concerned, we are happy and privileged to be here to support Pakistan cricket. We believe in, especially in the Asian region, Pakistan is a very important, pivotal partner, a brother that we can’t allow to be left alone.”