How Sri Lanka ended five-year isolation from international cricket | Daily News

How Sri Lanka ended five-year isolation from international cricket

The Pakistan Cricket Board under the leadership of former ICC president Ehsan Mani is trying their level best to woo international teams to tour the country and recommence playing Test cricket there, but the reaction to their invitations have not been so fruitful or as they would have liked not speedy enough.

It’s been over a decade since the Sri Lanka cricket team bus was ambushed and fired upon by 12 gunmen near the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on March 3, 2009. Since that fateful day no international team had wanted to make a tour to Pakistan. There have been several attempts by the PCB to break the ice but with the exception of a few T20 internationals and ODIs played over a short period of time no full tours have taken place with Test matches.

Sri Lanka are scheduled to make a tour to Pakistan later this month but then again it is only for ODIs and T20Is, the Tests are to be played in the UAE in December. Since 2010 the UAE has become Pakistan’s home base for Test and other international fixtures.

What Pakistan needs is to cultivate more goodwill with other nations through their Cricket Board to convince them to resume international tours to their country.

Sri Lanka were placed in a similar situation 32 years ago in 1987 when during the height of the war with the Tamil Tigers a bomb blast at the Pettah bus stand left several people dead and resulted in the New Zealand cricket team who were in the country at the time aborting the tour after playing only one Test out of a scheduled three.

The repercussions it had on cricket in Sri Lanka were great. For the next five years no international team wanted to risk touring the country due to the security situation at the time and as a result the country went through a rather lean period in its cricket history.

The ice was eventually broken by P Ian Pieris and S Skandakumar when they became president and secretary respectively of the Sri Lanka Cricket Board (as it was known then). They did a lot of ground work to get international tours started to Sri Lanka.

Skandakumar was kind enough to roll back the years and explain how it all happened.

“Ian and I had a challenge given the drought in domestic fixtures for almost four years. David Richards then CEO of ACB and I had a good relationship and also with Malcolm Gray the chairman. I shared with David my concerns before the ICC meeting (July 1991) and the need for someone to break the ice and firm a tour to give us a break as although the security situation had improved no one seemed willing to take the initiative.

“Before sessions began David gave me a pleasant surprise saying ‘we will come to you mate’ and firmed the tour for 1992. On the strength of that Ian and I were able to negotiate for every other Test playing nation to firm a visit between 1992 and 1994 including South Africa (who was readmitted to the ICC at that meeting).

“In fact I did say at the meeting that the only team that had not visited us since we gained Test status in 1982 was West Indies and Clyde Walcott put up his hand up apologetically and said, ‘we are coming, we are coming’."

The late Ian Pieris in an interview with the now defunct ‘The Nation’ paper said, “We worked hard to convince a touring side to come again to Sri Lanka. Skanda was a very able administrator and talker and we eventually managed to convince the Australian Cricket Board to send their Academy side in 1991 (February). It broke the five-year drought. The manager of the team Cameron Battersby from Queensland gave a good report about us which convinced the ACB to send their senior team to Sri Lanka in 1992 with Battersby as manager.”

Skandakumar concludes: “Unfortunately by the time West Indies arrived Tyrone (Fernando) was president and he wanted the Test to be played at Moratuwa where the drainage was faulty and the match was ruined very badly by rain.

“I did not seek re-election as I preferred to stay with the constitution and the period it specified for honorary office bearers. Extensions were by courtesy of the Sports Minister and although Nanda Mathew was keen for me to continue I opted to respect the constitution and not over stay my welcome in honorary office. Neil (Perera) took over and continued the committed work. It was nevertheless a nice way to exit with all tours firmed.”

What Sri Lanka Cricket certainly lacks today are individuals of this calibre, gentlemen to their fingertips.


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