Sri Lanka prepares for historic tour
The Sri Lanka cricket team have arrived in Pakistan for their historic test series, with the home side ready to host test cricket for the first time in more than a decade. The teams will play back-to-back matches, starting in Rawalpindi on December 11, followed by Karachi on December 24th.
Test cricket has not been played in the country since the events of the morning of March 3rd, 2009. That was when the Sri Lankan team, preparing for the third day of the second test at the Qaddafi Stadium in Lahore, came under attack as they travelled to the game by bus. A group of 12 terrorists, armed with RPGs, grenades and hand guns, fired upon the bus, and the mini-van following it, which contained the umpires and the match referee.
The Pakistani police escorting the bus fired back, and, in the ensuing gun battle, six policemen, and two civilians, including the driver of the mini-bus, were killed. Several members of the Sri Lanka team were injured, including Thilan Samaraweera, who received shrapnel wounds in his thigh, and Tharanga Paranavitana, who was hit in the chest. Paul Fairbrace, the teams assistant coach, and reserve referee Ahsan Raza were also injured, but subsequently recovered in hospital.
The tour was immediately abandoned, and the Sri Lankan team left the country on the first available flight. Other countries planning to visit the country immediately abandoned their plans, and Pakistan lost the chance to co-host the 2011 World Cup.
Since then, Pakistan have had to play the majority of their home matches in the UAE.
In 2015, international cricket did return to Pakistan when Zimbabwe toured the country, playing three one day international and two T20 matches. However, that series was also marred by terrorism after a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the Lahore stadium. A policeman died trying to prevent the attack, whilst six other people were injured.
Earlier this year, Sri Lanka themselves returned to play a three match ODI and T20I series in September and October, but a number of their leading players, including Niroshan Dickwella, Thisara Perera, Angelo Mathews, and Lasith Malinga, refused to tour because of concerns for their personal safety.
Now, with Dimuth Karunaratne leading the Sri Lankan test side, the eyes of the world will be on Pakistan, with other countries closely monitoring how the tour goes, before making any plans to visit the country in the near future.