‘Pakistan is now safe for cricket’ – Dimuth Karunaratne

Halfway through the Test series, several Sri Lanka players have expressed confidence that Pakistan is safe to tour. Not only that, captain Dimuth Karunaratne now even regrets pulling out of the ODI leg in September.

Pakistan and Sri Lanka had originally been slated to play the ongoing Test series in September, and the limited-overs leg at this time of year. But so intent was the PCB on resuming Test cricket in Pakistan that they switched the series around, hoping that a safe and successful limited-overs tour would convince the holdouts among the Sri Lanka Test side to travel to Pakistan.

It worked. Members of the limited-overs side took good reports of the security situation in Pakistan back to Sri Lanka’s senior players. Karunaratne had been among 10 cricketers to opt out of the September tour, but all of those players made themselves available for the Test series.

“Now I do regret not coming for the shorter formats,” Karunaratne said, ahead of the Karachi Test. “At that time it was a really hard decision to take, because I had heard and read lots of things about Pakistan on news and social media – not positive things. But the guys who came here before gave really good comments and that’s why all the seniors decided to go and play a good Test series. Now I think I should have come and played the one-dayers.”

The PCB took a further step towards normalising high-profile tours of Pakistan on Wednesday, when it confirmed a tour of Pakistan in February 2020 by an MCC team led by Kumar Sangakkara. It is also hoped that Bangladesh will tour sometime in the next eight weeks, but that visit has not yet been confirmed. Another series, with South Africa, is also in the works, while the Pakistan Super League is expected to be played in Pakistan in its entirety next year.

“I can’t appeal to Bangladesh about whether they should come, but what I can say is that for me it feels really safe,” Karunaratne said. “The guys who are giving us security, they are giving us not just 100% but more than 100%. That’s why we feel really good. We went out for dinner as well. I can say that Pakistan is now safe for cricket.”

The ongoing Test series is the first in the country since 2009, when the Sri Lanka team bus was attacked by terrorists in Lahore. Six security personnel and two civilians were killed in that attack.