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Why Sri Lanka cricketers opting out of tour shouldn't worry PCB

The board should not pay heed to any emotional suggestions regarding cancelling the series altogether

PHOTO: AFP

Ten Sri Lanka cricketers have opted out of touring Pakistan for the upcoming One-Day International (ODI) and Twenty20 International (T20I) series over security concerns, following a meeting between Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) and the players on Monday.

The players include senior cricketers like ODI captain Dimuth Karunaratne, T20I captain Lasith Malinga and all-rounder Angelo Mathews.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) shouldn’t worry about this development and continue their preparation for the series, as their main priority should be to hold the series without any untoward incident.

The Sri Lanka players were initially worried about the long period of time they will have to stay in the country which led to the Test series being swapped with the ODI and T20I series. As per the original programme, Pakistan was scheduled to host Sri Lanka for two-match Test series in October before Sri Lanka returned for three ODIs and three T20Is in late December.

READ MORE: Ten Sri Lankan cricketers decide against touring Pakistan

The Sri Lanka team is due to arrive in Pakistan on September 25 and will stay in the country till October 10. It is still a significant amount of time and almost similar to what it takes to complete a two-match Test tour. Hence, if the limited-overs series takes place without any hiccups, the SLC and their players will have no reason left to refuse to tour Pakistan for a Test series in December.

During the aforementioned meeting, the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Selection Panel Asantha De Mel gave players the freedom to decide on either taking part or not in the forthcoming Pakistan tour.

One reason why SLC is willing to send its second-string side to Pakistan right now, is because the series holds no relevance in the larger context. However, that is not the case with the Test series, as it is part of the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Test Championship. If SLC send their second-string side for the Test series or withdraw from it altogether, they run the risk of losing out on important points in the championship.

In addition to that, Bangladesh is also due to visit Pakistan following the Sri Lanka series, for a full tour in January next year. Hence, this upcoming limited-overs series holds great significance and will strengthen the case for future Test tours to Pakistan.

In the past, PCB have paid players of teams like Zimbabwe and World XI, in order to convince them to travel to Pakistan for a short series. However, the board took too long to move away from this practice as it already seems to have set a wrong precedent. Sri Lanka all-rounder Thisara Perera who has previously travelled to Pakistan for the Pakistan Super League (PSL) and World XI matches has also opted out of the tour. Perera has instead decided to play in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) where he stands to earn a lot more than he would during the limited-overs series with Pakistan, with no extra money on offer this time around.

Hence it becomes imperative for the PCB to bring normalcy to international cricket in the country, which will be a gradual process with few roadblocks along the way. However it is important to make it a routine without offering any additional monetary benefits.

Therefore, the PCB should not pay heed to any emotional suggestions regarding cancelling the Sri Lanka series altogether or refusing to travel to the island nation in future, as we need to look at the bigger picture.

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