Pakistan showcases its security capabilities to the cricketing world for the third time in eight months on Sunday when it hosts Sri Lanka in a Twenty20 international at Lahore’s heavily guarded Gaddafi Stadium.
The Pakistan Super League final in March also in Lahore featured several overseas players. It was the first small step toward winning back the confidence of foreign teams and reviving international cricket at home after an attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in 2009 during a test match at the same stadium in Lahore.
The Pakistan Cricket Board, in collaboration with the ICC, last month organized a three-match T20 international series against a World XI, led by South Africa’s Faf du Plessis, at Gaddafi Stadium.
And now Sri Lanka will round off a T20 series which Pakistan already leads 2-0 after winning in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Pakistan has only hosted Zimbabwe for a short limited-overs series two years ago since the 2009 attack.
Since then UAE has become Pakistan’s “home” venue away from home as the PCB gradually tries to convince foreign teams that it’s safe to play international cricket in Pakistan.
Several thousand security officials will be on duty Sunday with armed military personnel around the stadium and on the route of team buses to the stadium.
Asanka Gurusinha and Hashan Tillakaratne two of Sri Lanka’s survivors in the 2009 attack that killed eight people will be coming to Lahore again as team manager and batting coach respectively.
But several Sri Lanka players won’t be there. Regular captain Upul Tharanga, Lasith Malinga, Niroshan Dickwella, Suranga Lakmal and Akila Dananjaya all pulled out.
Cricket-starved fans have bought tickets in large numbers to witness Sunday’s match despite the series already being won by Pakistan. “What’s important to me is that we are hosting an international match and show the world that it’s safe to play in Pakistan,” said Ghulam Abbas, a college student. “I think after the West Indies tour, the doors of international cricket will be wide open in Pakistan.”
Pakistan is expected to host West Indies next month for a three-match Twenty20 series in Lahore.
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