By Channaka de Silva
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Shaharyar M Khan had made a very brief and top secret visit to Sri Lanka last morning to have a discussion with Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) President Jayantha Dharmadasa and invite Sri Lanka “A” and Under 19 teams to tour Pakistan.
What appears to be a desperate move by the PCB Chairman to show the world that Pakistan is safe enough for visiting sports teams comes amidst prolonged sporting isolation faced by the country ravaged by the constant threat of terrorism.
Khan had earlier visited Bangladesh on Monday to meet cricket officials and had made a similar request.
“Pakistan's cricket board chief has urged Bangladesh to send "any team," even "at the level of A teams and Under 19" Indian news agency ANI reported on Wednesday.
Interestingly, Khan had only met Dharmadasa while several other top SLC officials contacted by “Daily Mirror” said they were unaware of the PCB Chairman’s sudden visit. It shows that interaction among SLC officials are at a very poor level which obviously does not serves well for the development of the game.
Last evening Dharmadasa emailed the other top SLC officials to inform them that he had met Khan. Dharmadasa had stated that Khan, on his way to Dubai - from New Delhi, arrived here on a brief visit and met him for a short meeting.
He had revealed that Khan had invited Sri Lanka A team, U-19, and U-17 teams to visit Pakistan, and had suggested that SLC officials carry out a security assessment before sending the team.
Khan had indicated that currently, Pakistan’s situation “has improved drastically” and would host Sri Lankan officials to carry out the security assessments.
Interestingly, President Mahinda Rajapaksa was reported by international media in May this year to have said that the Sri Lankan cricket team must go to Pakistan and play there.
“We must go and play there also. We can’t allow the terrorists to have control” President Rajapaksa was quoted as saying during a meeting with Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain in China.
No major international sports teams have visited Pakistan since Sri Lankan cricketers were attacked on March 3, 2009 in Lahore by terrorists.
The bus carrying Sri Lankan cricketers was fired upon by 12 gunmen, near the Gaddafi Stadium, when the team was on its way to play the third day of the second Test against the Pakistan.
Seven cricketers Thilan Samaraweera, Kumar Sangakkara, Tharanga Paranavitana, Ajantha Mendis, Chaminda Vaas, Mahela Jayawardene and Suranga Lakmal were injured while six Pakistani policemen and two civilians were killed.
Sri Lankan cricket officials had taken the decision to send the team to Pakistan as a replacement for the Indian team, who had pulled out after the famous Mumbai attacks.
The Wikipedia article on the attacks states that, In order to persuade the Sri Lankan team to visit, the Pakistan government offered to arrange "presidential-style security".
The tour was undertaken despite several warnings.