Pakistan Look to Make Most of Home Conditions Against Depleted Sri Lanka
A decade ago, the touring Sri Lankan team was attacked by terrorists in Lahore, leaving a few players injured. Since then not much cricket has been played in Pakistan amid security concerns.
In the attacks, six players were injured while six Pakistan policemen and two civilians were killed.
Post the attacks, Zimbabwe were the first country to return in 2015, with Pakistan hosting the West Indies, Sri Lanka, and a World XI team thereafter.
Sri Lanka are back in Pakistan, and only after plenty of to and from between both countries, that the visitors have agreed to go ahead with the tour. The clearances only came in last-week, but it was not enough to convince all of Sri Lanka’s top players to make the trip as ten made themselves unavailable for selection.
Dasun Shanaka, Sri Lanka’s T20 captain, has no misgivings about returning to Pakistan after they played a T20I in Lahore in October 2017, their first since the 2009 attack.
Presidential levels of security has been provided to the visitors who landed on September 25th and Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed cannot wait to lead his team out in Karachi for the first ODI on Friday (September 27).
The hosts are keen to get going at home after years of playing their home games in UAE, and with fan favourite Misbah-ul-Haq making his debut as coach there is a good feeling going into the series from their camp.
Under Misbah, Pakistan have increased their focus on being fitter, especially after their players were called out by fans during the World Cup for unhealthy eating habits on the eve of a game.
With three ODIs and as many T20Is against Sri Lanka set to begin from Friday (September 27), Misbah on his part on Wednesday urged the cricket world to help his country's efforts to revive international matches, damaged by security problems in the last decade.
For Pakistan’s cricketers, especially the likes of Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Rizwan and Mohammad Nawaz, this series is a chance bounce back into the scheme of things. They will however miss the dynamic Shaheen Afridi (Dengue) and Hasan Ali (back injury). Mohammad Hasnain and Mohammad Hafeez have been left out while Shoaib Malik will only come into the team for the T20Is.
Sri Lanka, who have not had the best fortunes in the last year or so, did however bounce back after the World Cup and put up three complete performances to whitewash Bangladesh in the three-match ODI series at home last month.
The new look squad, without players like Dimuth Karunaratne and Angelo Mathews, will also be worried of stand-in skipper Lahiru Thirimanne's fitness, as the left-hander had complained of pain in his back while training ahead of the tour.
The three ODIs will be played in the National Stadium in Karachi where and for the first game the conditions are likely to be a mix of sunny and overcast.
For both Pakistan and Sri Lanka, neither of whom had a good World Cup in England and Wales earlier this year, the process of climbing back up the ladder of international cricket to their glory days begin in Karachi.
Pakistan ODI squad: Sarfaraz Ahmed (c), Babar Azam, Abid Ali, Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Hasnain, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Shadab Khan, Usman Khan Shinwari, Wahab Riaz.
Sri Lanka ODI Squad: Lahiru Thirimanne (c), Danushka Gunathilaka, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Avishka Fernando, Oshada Fernando, Shehan Jayasuriya, Dasun Shanaka, Minod Bhanuka, Angelo Perera, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lakshan Sandakan, Nuwan Pradeep, Isuru Udana, Kasun Rajitha, Lahiru Kumara