Karachi will host its first bilateral ODI series in over a decade as Pakistan and Sri Lanka get ready to lock horns in a historic three-match series at the National Cricket Stadium beginning on Friday.
Nearly two years after Sri Lanka toured Pakistan for a one-off T20 clash in Lahore, the islanders are back in the country, albeit with a highly rejigged squad missing some key senior players.
It is a series Pakistan will hope can become the true ‘homecoming’ of international cricket to the country after nearly a decade of having to use the UAE as their alternate home base.
Historic occasion for Pakistan cricket
Pakistan’s international isolation began with the terrorist attack on the touring Sri Lanka team bus in 2009 and it is now the same opposition which has come to their rescue in their bid to restore normalcy back to the country.
The importance of the series was not lost on Sarfraz Ahmed who has been retained as Pakistan’s skipper for the upcoming limited-overs clashes.
“History will be made on Friday when Karachi will host the first bilateral ODI series since January 2009,” Sarfraz said on Tuesday.
“I request all local cricket fans to be part of history so that they can tell the next generation that they were at the National Stadium when an international series was played.
“Leading the Pakistan cricket team in a bilateral ODI series in front of my home crowd will be one of the highlights of my career.”
Visitors greeted by presidential level security
Sri Lanka’s touring party landed in Karachi on Tuesday and was greeted by a security arrangement usually afforded to visits by heads of state. It is a tour that is finally going ahead after some back and forth by Sri Lanka Cricket following a tip-off by its government for a potential terror threat to the touring team.
SLC were at one point even reassessing their decision to tour the country but all those fears were ultimately allayed by the Pakistan government who assured the visitors of the highest level of security.
It is still a Sri Lanka squad missing some big names such as Lasith Malinga and Dimuth Karunaratne after as many as 10 players pulled out of the tour citing security concerns. In their stead, it is Lahiru Thirimanne and Dasun Shanaka who will lead the rejigged ODI and T20 squads respectively on the tour.
Despite the absence of their star men, the Sri Lankans will hope to carry the winning momentum from their most recent 3-0 ODI series whitewash over Bangladesh on home soil.
Era of Misbah starts now
While Sri Lanka’s visit to Pakistan is historic in its own right, Friday will also mark the true start of Misbah-ul-Haq’s tenure as the new head coach and chief selector of the men’s team. The former Pakistan skipper replaced Mickey Arthur in the role after the team’s failure to qualify for the 2019 World Cup semi-final and he will hope to usher in the new era in the most positive of fashions.
The 45-year-old has already reportedly rung the changes from the players’ diets to their training regime with no stone being left unturned to take the team to the next level. The eyes of the Pakistan cricket fraternity will expectantly be on Misbah and his men on Friday and it will most certainly be an emotional start to the highly respected former batsman’s reign.
“Friday’s match will be an emotional one for me as I played at the National Stadium when it last staged an ODI, also against Sri Lanka,” Misbah said.
“Ten years later, I will start my time as head coach of the Pakistan national cricket team, so the time has moved really fast.
“As the national cricket team commences its 2019-20 international season in Karachi, I hope the crowds will once again be there to encourage us and help us do better.”
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