Sri Lanka’s players have indicated strong reluctance to travel to Lahore for the third T20I against Pakistan, by signing a letter that requests the match be moved to a neutral venue, a leading cricket news website report claimed on Saturday.
According to cricinfo, SLC officials are likely to attempt to convince the players to tour. The board will discuss the issue further at its executive committee meeting on Monday.
Though the players have not definitively ruled out traveling to Lahore, the mood in the dressing room is one of firm objection. “I don’t think the players will change their stance,” a cricketer, who was among the 40 contracted players who signed the letter, said. Not only were Suranga Lakmal and Chamara Kapugedera physically present on the bus that was attacked in Lahore in 2009, the other players are aware of the trauma suffered by those on board. The current players also believe the 2009 team suffered a singular attack in the world of sport, and are unwilling to be among the first teams to return to Pakistan.
SLC CEO Ashley de Silva said player security remained the board’s primary concern, and that “a decision will be made at the ex-co meeting taking into account all the security information”. But other officials, such as president Thilanga Sumathipala, appear very keen on the team traveling to Pakistan. The board is expected to make an appeal to the players over the next few days. The country’s sports ministry is also keen to send a team.
Both parties have tread softly so far, out of a desire not to incense the other: the players have stopped short of issuing a categorical refusal; the board has at no stage indicated there would be punishments for players who decline to travel.
But for the other major party in the equation – the PCB – a refusal from Sri Lanka’s main players would amount to a setback, given the progress they had recently made in bringing back international cricket to the country. SLC officials were quick to point out that not only have Sri Lanka’s players been promised the same level of security afforded to the World XI team in September, but that the ICC was also content to now send its match officials to Pakistan.
If the majority of players are unconvinced by SLC’s overtures, however, the board may consider sending a second-string team comprised of those who are willing to travel. Thisara Perera, who played in the World XI series, is understood to be favourable towards traveling to Lahore again.
The chances of a full-strength Sri Lanka team playing in Lahore, however, have diminished with the signing of this letter. For the administrators of both boards, who had all spoken with optimism about this match going ahead, that is something of a problem.