Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Ehsan Mani
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Ehsan Mani Image Credit: AP

Dubai: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has stuck to it’s plans to stage the limited-over series against Sri Lanka only in Pakistan and not at a neutral venue.

Ehsan Mani, chairman of the PCB, has ruled out all possibilities of shifting the three One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and T20Is from Karachi and Lahore following the Sri Lankan government receiving an alert of a possible terrorist threat to the Sri Lanka team. Earlier, ten top Sri Lankan cricketers had refused to tour Pakistan fearing security threats.

“Our decision is very clear and we are not exploring any other neutral venue. We don’t have the time to shift or look out for any other option right now. Our default position is that it is Pakistan’s home series and it will be played in the country. This has been the understanding right from the start and we are in discussions with the Sri Lanka board and they are also very positive about sending their team,” Mani said.

UAE has been hosting Pakistan’s international matches ever since the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore in 2009. The ODI matches are scheduled for September 27, 29, and October 2 and three T20Is will be played on October 5, 7 and 9.

Following the pullout of the top players, Sri Lanka had announced a below-par team for the series in Pakistan. The ODI team will be led by Lahiru Thirimanne, while T20 team will be headed by Dasun Shanaka. Two days after the announcement of the ODI and T20 teams, the Sri Lankan government received a terror alert that threatened to throw the entire tour into jeopardy.

Mani revealed that PCB was in contact with Sri Lanka Cricket officials and that he hadn’t heard anything negative from Sri Lanka about the tour. “We are just waiting for a final call from their government and I hope things will go in our favour,” said Mani.

Meanwhile, Sharjah Cricket Stadium, which had regularly hosted Pakistan’s international matches, especially the T20 format matches, would be available if Pakistan needed to stage the limited-overs series here in UAE on a short notice. This has been made possible as the Afghanistan Premier League, scheduled to be held at Sharjah next month, has got postponed due to the league’s commercial partner failing to pay the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) the rights money. The ACB has now terminated the agreement with partner Snixer Sports and plans to stage their league only in 2020.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, it is learnt, wants PCB to pull out all the stops to bring international cricket back to Pakistan. Mani has even stated that plans are on to stage all matches of the fifth edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in Pakistan itself and not in the UAE. However, the PCB has also asked to keep the Sharjah ground free as a back-up in case many top international cricketers pull out.

The PCB is hoping to stage the 2020 PSL in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Multan. Stressing on why Pakistan is not keen to shift any of its matches to neutral venues, Mani told the media: “We want to see our cricket arenas having international cricket activities on a regular basis, the way it used to be in the past. We are speeding up our efforts and contacts with cricket-playing nations, as things have improved a lot now so far as the security situation is concerned.”