News Analysis |
The city of Lahore is once again all set to embellish the annals of history as it hosts the Srilankan Cricket Team for the third and final match of the ongoing T20 series between Srilanka and Pakistan. The team led by the fiery Thisara Perera arrived in the early hours of Sunday and was taken to a five-star hotel amid tight security. With the series already clinched by the hosts, the match is a dead rubber but the match is important in many respects. The arrival of the Srilankan team speaks volumes of the country’s trust on Pakistan and its support for ensuring that passionate fans in the country.
“It’s nice to be in Pakistan again,” said Perera, who was part of the World XI last month. “We are thankful for a warm welcome and will do our best to entertain the crowd with some good cricket,” Thisara, who was in the city for the Independence Cup last month said.
Pakistani skipper Sarfraz Ahmed warmly thanked the Srilankan team for gracing the country.“We are thankful to the Sri Lankan team for coming to Pakistan and I request the fans to support both the teams during the match,” said Sarfraz.
— Cricingif (@_cricingif) October 29, 2017
Though the squad is different, every Srilankan traveling in a bomb proof bus from the Allama Iqbal International Airport to the hotel must have recalled the gory incident of 3rd March 2009 in the very city when heroes to many in Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Ajantha Mendis and three others were inflicted with bullet injuries while facing a militant ambush.Indeed, had it not been for the heroics of the then bus driver, Mehr Khalil, the world of cricket may have lost jewels.
This is especially true in the case of Asanka Gurusinha and Hashan Tillakaratne who survived the brazen attack in 2009 and are now part of the squad as team manager and batting coach respectively. Firmly and painstakingly etched in memory, the attack did not deter the Srilankan team from putting up its hands to come and play in Pakistan, in the process becoming the second test playing nation to dazzle the country and contribute toward ending the 8-year long drought of international cricket in that country.
The Chief of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, realizing the importance of the occasion took to Twitter to welcome the Srilankan guests. “It’s not just international cricket that is coming home today but our pride and our passion… Lahore welcomes SriLankan guests,” Sharif whose rule was supplanted by the Governor Raj in 2009, tweeted.
It’s not just international cricket that is coming home today but our pride and our passion… Lahore welcomes SriLankan guests … -ss
— Shehbaz Sharif (@CMShehbaz) October 28, 2017
Chairman PCB, Najam Sethi, who has tirelessly strived to bring cricket back home said:”It’s a historic moment.With improved security, we hopefully fledged international cricket will return to Pakistan in the next two years.”
Earlier in an interview with eminent anchor, Ejaz Haider, Sethi,69, said the benefits of holding matches in the country outweigh the risks. Sethi, who is also the force behind the Pakistan Super League has been successful in bringing cricket back home gradually this year. The final of the second edition of the PSL took place in Lahore in March; the World XI team played the Independence Cup in Lahore last month.
— Capital TV (@CapitalTV_News) October 28, 2017
A great victory
The return of the Srilankan team is being seen as a huge boost for the country and that too for non-cricketing reasons. At a time when the country is being castigated for allegedly being the hotbed and proliferator of terrorism in the region, the return of the “bruised” team sends just the right optics: a manifestation of trust and ratification of Pakistan’s long-held position on the ever-improving security profile in the country.
Security and intelligence officials while alluding to foreign hands behind the attack, could not collate the leads and chatters. Many pointed out how India, after the Mumbai attacks in 2008 had made attempts to hurt the country’s cricket. Pakistani players were debarred from playing the Indian Premier League(IPL); the BCCI canceled India’s tour to Pakistan and hence the Srilankan team acted as a replacement.Pakistan was deprived of its share of 14 matches of the 2011 World Cup which it had to host by virtue of being a joint host along with India, Bangladesh, and Srilanka.
But Srilankans also do recall the time when their players where airlifted from the ground in a helicopter of the Pakistan Army.Watchers say that today’s match will be embedded in history books.
The Srilankan team will play on a ground where it has starkly contrasting memories. The then war-torn country fondly remembers Arjuna Ranatunga lifting the trophy of the 1996 World Cup after miraculously defeating Australia in the final at the Gaddafi Stadium Lahore. But Srilankans also do recall the time when their players where airlifted from the ground in a helicopter of the Pakistan Army.Watchers say that today’s match will be embedded in history books.