Kumar Sangakkara was also part of the Sri Lankan team in 2009 that was attacked in Lahore. File / Reuters
Former Sri Lanka captain and Marylebone Cricket Club President Kumar Sangakkara urged teams like England, Australia or South Africa to embark on international tours to Pakistan. Sangakkara was part of the MCC XI that toured Pakistan in the February this year.
Sangakkara was also part of the Sri Lankan side in 2009 that was attacked in Lahore leaving eight dead and six of the team’s players were injured.
The incident led to international teams shunning Pakistan for tours and it would be six years before Zimbabwe became the first team to play a three-game ODI series in the country.
Since then, the West Indies and a World XI side have played international matches in the country and notably, Sri Lanka played a two-match Test series in Pakistan in December 2019.
Even Bangladesh toured Pakistan recenty. Sangakkara has urged other major countries to tour Pakistan to facilitate the return of international cricket.
“It doesn’t matter an Asian side going there or a secondary side in terms of world prominence when it comes to having security measures in place,” Sangakkara told The Cricket Show on Sky Sports Cricket.
“I think it’s important that England or Australia, even South Africa, make up their minds to actually tour when security is assured and they have those discussions; the MCC tour will be a precursor to that.”
He said that the tours may turn out to be prolonged affairs and the players will have to accept the restrictions that will be in place. However, he said the steps need to be taken because a “strong Pakistan side playing in front of their home crowds is one of the best things that can happen to world cricket.”
“I think it will be more a case of you play two Test matches, you take a break, you go back and play three one-dayers,” said Sangakkara.
“It’s not exactly the right time for extended tours but I’m sure that with the right communication and the measures in place that players can go back and play some great quality cricket, have a great time and bring cricket back to Pakistan.”
Sangakkara also spoke about his experience of touring the country with the MCC side. The team played a T20 match against Lahore Qalandars at the Gaddafi Stadium before a 50-over match against Pakistan Shaheens two days later, at Aitchison College, Lahore.
“I think there were about 18,000-19,000 people there at the ground on that first day. They were in queues just as we got to the ground, waiting to get in,” said Sangakkara.
“The reception that we got, the happiness on their faces, the enthusiasm, the welcome and hospitality was absolutely incredible.
“It’s a funny thing, when I thought I would go back to Pakistan after 2009 I was pretty sure it would not be to play cricket. But here we were 10 years later. I was there, after having retired, donning my cricket gear and playing in front of what I remember to be one of the best venues I have ever played in with so much support.
“When we got to Pakistan I thought there might be an emotional reckoning with coming to terms with where I was at what stage in my life having considered what we went through in 2009.”
“But strangely when we got off at the airport and we walked through the security lines, I didn’t have any trepidation or anxiety. We were extremely well looked after and I think it was one of the best decisions I made to be there with the MCC on that tour.”
Indo-Asian News Service
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