Sri Lanka made history and won millions of hearts as they became the first major Test-playing team to play on Pakistan soil since the ghastly terror attack eight years ago. On the fateful day on 3 March, 2009 the Sri Lankan team bus and a mini-van carrying match officials was attacked by militants near the Gaddafi Stadium ahead of the third day of a Test match. Six Sri Lankan players got injured; a reserve umpire suffers serious injuries. Six security men and two civilians got killed.
The incident resulted in Pakistan’s long and painful isolation as teams refused to visit the country. Pakistan was also dropped as a co-host of the 2011 World Cup which was tremendous blow to Pakistan cricket. With teams refusing to tour the country over security fears, Pakistan was forced to host its ‘home’ matches in neutral venues, predominantly in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The first break came for Pakistan in the form of Zimbabwe, who became the first Test team to tour Pakistan since 2009 in May, 2015. The two T20s and three ODIs between Pakistan and Zimbabwe were all held at Lahore.
Due to the hard-work of Pakistan Cricket Board, the Pakistan Super League final was played in Lahore earlier this year. All other matches of the T20 event were played in the UAE, but the PCB was keen to prove its readiness to host international players and managed to convince some international players to visit Pakistan along with their finalist-teams. The match was conducted successfully with big name players including Marlon Samuels, Darren Sammy and Chris Jordan making the trip among others.
Last month a World XI side led by South Africa’s Faf du Plessis, played three official T20s in Lahore. with big names like George Bailey, David Miller, Hashim Amla, Samuel Badree and veteran Paul Collingwood making the trip.
However despite being the target of attacks back in 2009, the Sri Lankan government, the country’s cricket board and the team have shown tremendous bravery and resolve to visit Pakistan, becoming the first major test playing nation to do so in eight years. This gesture of support by Sri Lanka will forever live in the hearts of Pakistanis and the series will hopefully ensure the complete return of international cricket to Pakistan.
Sri Lankan players have won the hearts of millions of Pakistanis by visiting Lahore.