Upul Tharanga may be dropped from the entire T20I series    Getty
Upul Tharanga may be dropped from the entire T20I series Getty

Sri Lankan limited-overs skipper Upul Tharanga finally found form and struck a valiant century in the side’s defeat against Pakistan in the Abu Dhabi ODI. However, the cricketer has pulled out of the Lahore T20I citing security concerns. Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) had earlier announced that only one squad will be picked for all three T20Is against Pakistan and this makes Tharanga ineligible to be a part of the squad in the first two as well. ALSO READ: SLC confirms 3rd T20I against Pakistan to be played in Lahore

Reports in Cricbuzz suggest that only Thisara Perera and two other players from the current squad have agreed to travel to Lahore. Thisara was a part of the ICC World XI side that toured Pakistan for a T20I series last month. Kusal Perera has now emerged as a frontrunner to take up the captaincy mantle from Tharanga. The wicketkeeper-batsman has been suffering from bouts of injuries and is scheduled for an MRI scan. If all goes well, he will lead the side.

The report mentions only Dilshan Munaweera, Ashan Priyanjan and Isuru Udana, who feature in T20s frequently, have agreed to tour Pakistan while SLC continued negotiating with others. Earlier, SLC President Thilanga Sumathipala received a letter from 40 contracted players, who expressed their unwillingness to travel to Lahore.

Suspense over Malinga

Lasith Malinga was dropped from the ODI side but selectors hinted that the ace bowler could be back for the T20s. Malinga remains one of the contracted players unwilling to tour Lahore and that bit puts his selection in jeopardy. The bowler on Sunday had raised objections on SLC’s stance to not pick those reluctant to tour Lahore for all the three games.

Pacer Suranga Lakmal and Chamara Kapugedera were part of the Sri Lankan bus that was attacked by terrorist during the second Test at Lahore on that ominous March day in 2009. Lakmal has understandably refused to tour Lahore, while Kapugedera might decide to go.

Both Sri Lanka and Pakistan government have assured the strongest of security to the players. Even Sri Lanka’s Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara called Pakistan as one the nation’s strongest allies, and therefore wants to put cricket on front.

The Sri Lankan support staff Hashan Tillakaratne (batting coach), Rumesh Ratnayake (fast bowling coach), Asanka Gurusinha (Manager) and Nic Pothas (Head Coach) have agreed to tour. Tillakaratne and Gurusinha also have fond memories of Lahore. They were a part of the XI that beat Australia in 1996 to help Sri Lanka lift their maiden World Cup.

Sri Lanka’s T20I squad will be announced on Friday, October 20.

Author’s take:

Cricket needs to return to Pakistan, a nation that contributes immensely to this game. However, cricketers should not be forced. The concerns of Sri Lankan cricketers are genuine. Some of them could have lost their lives on that ill-fated tour. In fact, several lives were lost as well. SLC can continue negotiation and pick their best side for the first 2 T20Is. For the Lahore game, only the willing ones should be selected. They need to re-think their policy for the better interest of the game and their players.