Sri Lanka’s cricket board is reconsidering plans to play a match against Pakistan in Lahore later this month after its players expressed security concerns, officials said Saturday.
Sri Lanka are currently scheduled to play their third Twenty20 match in the series in Lahore on October 29, just over eight years after its team was ambushed by gunmen in the same city.
If it goes ahead, the match would be the first played in Pakistan by Sri Lanka — or any other top international team — since militants ambushed its team bus en route to the Lahore stadium in 2009, wounding at least seven players.
But the board cast doubt on its team’s return to the country Saturday, saying it would study security assessments provided by both Sri Lanka and Pakistan governments as well as independent reports and possibly make a decision Monday, an official said.
“A few players have expressed reservations, but about 20 players (out of 40 contracted by the board) have confirmed their willingness to play in Lahore,” the board official told AFP.
“A final decision is likely to be taken on Monday.”
Under the current schedule, Lahore would host the Twenty20 series finale following earlier matches between the sides played in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where Pakistan have played their “home” internationals since the ambush.
Since 2009 the only international team to visit Pakistan is Zimbabwe, who played five limited-overs games in Lahore in 2015.
But after Pakistan successfully staged the final of its domestic Pakistan Super League tournament in Lahore under heavy security this March, the country hoped international games could once again be played there.
A successful series against a World XI team featuring top foreign players in Lahore last month further boosted calls for cricket to return to the militancy-racked nation.
Sri Lanka cricket chief Thilanga Sumathipala in August appealed for an end to Pakistan’s isolation — a statement welcomed by Pakistani cricket officials — and urged countries to play there.
He recalled that several Test nations did not want to visit Sri Lanka at the height of the Tamil separatist conflict, when bombs were exploding in the capital in the mid-1990s, but Pakistan and India had toured Sri Lanka at the time.
It has been a long time coming but ICC’s new model concepts of the nine-team Test Championship and ODI league are a welcome change to cricket.
The new Test Championship format, set to kick in from 2019, will see nine top Test sides play six series in a span of two calendar years. These six Test series will be divided into three at home with as many away.
The Championship, which will commence at the conclusion of the ICC World Cup 2019, will see the top two sides at the end of the two-year cycle square-off against each other for the crown of the best Test team at Lord’s in London.
There will be a minimum of two Tests per series which the option of extending them to five at the discretion of the competing nations.
There has long been a clamour for the two-tier Test system with the advent of the T20 format which has seen fan and commercial interest surge in the shortest format of the game, sidelining Test cricket to the peripherals.
Governing bodies across the globe have struggled to fill the coffers when it comes to the purest format of the game with the ever widening gap between the top sides and those at the bottom resulting in an alarming decline in crowd numbers for such matches.
While the so called ‘Big Three’ along with South Africa still draw sufficient amounts of people for Tests amongst themselves, the attraction in the other games has seen a continuous slide.
It is difficult to find a healthy crowd for Tests between India and the likes of New Zealand for example in the current scenario while the limited-overs games between both the sides will still show healthy numbers in both stadiums and on TV.
If governing bodies and broadcasters continue feeling the pinch of the lack of moolah in the longer format it will only lead to the slow and eventual decay of Test cricket.
For long has Test cricket been crying out for an antidote to arrest the decline but for some reason or the other no middle ground has been found until now.
A Test Championship was mooted in 2013 but that fell through before implementation owing to commercial interests. A two-tier model proposed this year was eventually scrapped after opposition from teams like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka who feared being marginalised to the second division.
Their fears were not misguided with the risk of being stuck in a rut of playing inferior opposition for continuous periods, an exercise to the benefit of no one.
Test cricket is already in danger of terminal decline in countries such as West Indies and Bangladesh and having them face off against each other regularly would only hasten its downfall.
With the new model, a middle ground has been found of sorts without having to conform to a two-tier model.
By increasing the stakes for teams to play Tests along with a minimum amount of games per side, the ICC’s long-awaited remedial step is certainly a big boost for the under-threat format.
Rather than waiting for the perfect solution which pleases one and all, it was highly imperative that a change in course take place before it was too late.
T20 cricket is not going to go away for a long and interest in it will only continue to grow. A call of action was needed to retain Test cricket’s status in the modern game and the ICC’s move, though belated, was the call of the hour.
There is no guarantee that the new concept will show immediate results or turn out to be successful after all, but it would have been a crime to not do anything at all.
For now, we can only wait and hope that Test cricket will remain the cynosure of all formats in times to come despite the new found competition.
New Zealand have announced their squads for the upcoming limited-overs series against India, adding six names to the previously named team.
The updated squads contain batsmen such as Colin Munro, George Worker and Henry Nicholls along with wicket-keeper batsman Glenn Phillips. Also added are pacer Matt Henry and leg-spinner Todd Astle.
The Kiwis had announced an incomplete squad for the tour earlier with space for further additions based on performances of the New Zealand A’s tour of India.
Following the fourth ODI between India A and New Zealand A, the complete roster for the India series was announced.
Phillips has scored a ton for New Zealand A in the second ODI while Astle impressed with the ball, capturing five wickets in three matches.
New Zealand selector and New Zealand A manager Gavin Larsen lauded his two newest recruits ahead of the series.
“Todd has been one of the best white-ball players in domestic cricket the last few seasons and he’s backed that up with a strong showing for New Zealand A. Todd brings all-round skill to the squad, quality leg-spin, is athletic in the field as well as being able to contribute with the bat,” he said of Astle.
“Glenn has made an immediate effect in domestic cricket and has certainly taken his opportunity over here with New Zealand A, including an outstanding 140 not out. Glenn is an option for us with the gloves in both Twenty20s and ODIs, so we feel we have our bases covered with the 15 we’ve picked,” Larsen added.
New Zealand’s tour begins with two warm-up games against the Board President’s XI before the start of the three-match ODI series followed by a similar length T20I series.
The first ODI between India and New Zealand will be played on October 22 at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.