Sri Lanka will tour Pakistan despite threats

Afridi says IPL intimidated players

The Sri Lankan cricket board said on Thursday that it will go ahead with the tour of Pakistan despite fears that players could be the targets of terror attacks during the six-match visit comprising three ODIs and three T20 internationals between September 27 and October 9 in Karachi and Lahore.

Sri Lanka Cricket Secretary Mohan de Silva said they received the all-clear from the defence ministry to leave for Pakistan next Tuesday. “We have the green light from the defence ministry,” de Silva said. “The tour is on as we planned. I myself and our office bearers will also be accompanying the team.”

The team manager could be Asantha de Mel and he would be taking a virtual second XI on tour as the top 10 Sri Lankan players have pulled out citing fear of terror incidents.

Sri Lanka’s new ODI captain Lahiru Thirimanne told this newspaper on Thursday, “We have to respect the decision of the senior players because it’s a personal matter to be discussed with your loved ones. Sometimes players are ready to go but families are not so happy. We have to think about everything. So these decisions have to be respected.”

“SCL presented us the security plan and I am pretty happy with that and I explained to my family as well. The focus is not the security but cricket,” Lahiru said even as his team have been busy with preparations for the tour with practice in Colombo this week.

The pullout of the stars has, however, become a political issue with Pakistan minister for science Fawad Chaudhury claiming “Informed sports commentators told me that India threatened SL players that they’ll be ousted from IPL if they don’t refuse Pak visit”.

Shahid Afridi, who lets his voice be heard in political issues and who has had a running feud with BJP MP and former India opener Gautam Gambhir on Twitter, got stuck into the tour blaming India and IPL for major Sri Lankan stars opting out. “Sri Lankan players are under pressure from IPL franchises. I spoke to SL players last time when there was talk of them coming to Pakistan & playing in PSL. They said they wanted to come, but IPL guys say if you go to Pakistan we won’t give you a contract” #PAKvSL”, he tweeted.

However, the Sri Lankan Board had flatly denied this saying that the players had dropped out only for security concerns and minister Harin Fernando tweeted, “No truth to reports that India influenced Sri Lankan players not to play in Pakistan.”

IPL franchises have little say in what international players do when representing their home country. However, a team like Chennai Super Kings would employ no Sri Lankan player, but only due to the issue of Sri Lankan Tamils, which is a sensitive subject in Tamil Nadu.

The top players skipping the tour are — Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Perera, Dhananjaya De Silva, Thisara Perera, Akila Dhananjaya, Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Suranga Lakmal, Dinesh Chandimal and Dimuth Karunaratne.

Reports last week of a possible terror attack were referred to the Sri Lankan defence ministry for investigation, which has now cleared the tour. The Lankan team was the target of an attack during a Test match in Lahore in March 2009, with six players injured when gunmen attacked their bus. Six Pakistan policemen and two civilians were killed.

Since the attack, a majority of international teams have refused to tour Pakistan — only Zimbabweans and Sri Lankans themselves have been known to accept tours of Pakistan.

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