SLC’s Laudable Move

A laudable move (Daily News Editorial)

Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) should be commended for its decision to send more Lankan cricket teams to Pakistan. This follows Sri Lanka’s solitary 20-20 game against the hosts in Lahore, which went smoothly sans any security blues. The visit was Sri Lanka’s first to Pakistan in 8 years following the harrowing experience of Mahela and his boys when the bus transporting the Lankan team came under a terrorist attack, in which 7 persons were killed and 5 team members injured. The incident put paid to all international sports in Pakistan, barring a low key visit by Zimbabwe and a World Eleven cricket team, since then, until Sunday’s official 20-20 contest featuring Sri Lanka, at the same venue of the bloody mayhem, over eight years ago. True, there were misgivings in certain quarters, with even some established members of Lankan team pulling out of the tour, together with the team’s South African coach. But all’s well that ends well and the match was played before a sellout crowd, bringing smiles to the faces of the Pakistan cricket fans who were deprived of watching the home team play against top international sides for over eight years.

Soon after the arrival of the Lankan cricket team, back home, on Tuesday, SLC’s Chief Executive Ashley de Silva announced that they have decided to resume official tours to Pakistan following the impressive security that was provided. The Board would be sending junior sides to Pakistan soon and the senior side would follow soon thereafter. Though Pakistan does not figure in Sri Lanka’s Future Tours Programme a new schedule will be drawn up, as soon as possible, according to the CEO.Image result for lanka pakistan cricket cartoons

Pakistan certainly deserve a good turn after the lengths it went to get Sri Lanka admitted to the big league of Test playing nations, when the top nations gave us the cold shoulder. In fact, Pakistan contributed much more than even the Sri Lankan side, headed by late Minister Gamini Dissanayake, who staked our claim. Pakistan Cricket Board President, the late Abdul Hafeez Kadar, it was, who locked horns with the lords at Lords, putting forward Sri Lanka’s case, with conviction, so much so, when his pleas were ignored, Kadar decided to form the Asian Cricket Association to rival the ICC.

One can also not forget how Pakistan moved in to save the blushes of Sri Lanka (along with India), by sending a team to this country when Australia and the West Indies refused to honour their obligations and forfeited their matches against SL, during the 1996 World Cup, ostensibly due to the terrorist threat.

In that context, it is fitting that Sri Lanka was provided with the opportunity to reciprocate in kind, by sending its own team, when Pakistan was given a wide berth by international sports teams, due to the terrorist threat. It is also appropriate that both, Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera and SLC President Thilanga Sumathipala, were present at the venue to watch the game, conveying the solidarity of Sri Lanka, at government level.

Hopefully, the CEO’s pledge would not be confined to words and would be followed up by concrete action. If not, it would be tantamount to giving into terrorism. Terrorism should not be allowed to have a free run in any country and dictate the course of events, even when it comes to sports. This was the fate of Sri Lanka too, when, following the Pettah bomb, at a time the New Zealand match was being played, we too had a barren run of international cricket.

True, international cricket teams may have had good reason to boycott Pakistan, since the attack took place outside a playing venue, and, while, the Test match was still in progress. Hence, the fears entertained may have been justified. But, the security setup has improved by leaps and bounds, since then, which had deeply impressed the visitors. Hence, it is hoped that Pakistan will soon be open again for international sports events, enabling its multitude of cricket fans and the followers of other sports to get their full fill of entertainment.

Beyond the realm of cricket, Sri Lanka has other reasons, too, to be grateful to Pakistan, particularly in the area of military assistance, during the separatist war in this country. When western countries, and, even India, showed a reluctance to provide certain types of weapons, to effectively deal with the terrorists it was Pakistan that stepped into the breach. Pakistan is also a great friend of Sri Lanka, both, in fair and foul weather, coming to our aid in the spheres of trade and economic assistance. It was one of the first countries that flew in considerable relief assistance in the wake of the Tsunami catastrophe and made massive contributions in funds.

Leaders of both countries, too, have been making regular visits to each other cementing existing bonds. It is therefore important that the prevailing goodwill between the two countries be enhanced, in whatever way possible, and the medium of sports is as good an agency as any, in the promotion of these ties.