International cricket is returning to Pakistan after a long time. Following the terror attacks on the Sri Lanka cricket team in 2009, many international teams refused to tour the country. Zimbabwe were the first to break the isolation in 2015 while tours by the ICC World XI, West Indies and even Sri Lanka in 2017 signalled that international cricket could return soon. Sri Lanka will play three ODIs and three Twenty20 Internationals in Karachi and Lahore but there was plenty of controversy before the tour even took place.
10 Sri Lankan players withdrew over security concerns and the tour was in a limbo after the Sri Lankan Defence Ministry were examining reports of a possible terror attack on the cricket team. After a lengthy investigation, Sri Lanka's Defence Ministry gave the go-ahead for the tour which will start from September 27 with ODIs in Karachi.
However, many Pakistan fans and former players are upset that the 10 Sri Lankan players withdrew from the tour. Former Pakistan offspinner Saeed Ajmal and batsman Faisal Iqbal has urged the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to take a strong stance on players and teams for refusing to come to Pakistan for an official tour.
"I was very hurt when these Sri Lankan players backed out of the tour because the security situation in our country has improved a lot... Our board or government would never ask anyone to play in Pakistan unless they were not sure they could provide the best security environment. I think those Sri Lankan players or foreigners who can come for the PSL matches should also tour with their national teams. And if anyone refuses to come with their teams they should not be included in the PSL draft," Ajmal said.
The pull-out of the 10 Sri Lankan players, which included the likes of Lasith Malinga and Angelo Mathews prompted a controversial tweet from the Pakistan Science and Technology Minister Fawad Ahmed Chaudhry who said the Sri Lankan players were coerced to abandon the tour due to pressure from India. Sri Lanka's sports minister had denied that India was involved in the whole incident.
Even Iqbal, who was in the Pakistan team when the 2009 terror attack on the Sri Lankan team took place in Lahore, said the situation had changed dramatically in 10 years. "I was in the Pakistan team when the attack took place but since than things have changed, many international players have come and played in Pakistan. Sri Lankan players have come and played in the PSL. So there was no reason for these 10 Sri Lankan players to back out of the tour. I don't think so the Indians are involved but my point is if it is safe for anyone to play PSL matches in Pakistan than they should also tour with their teams," Iqbal said.