LONDON: Pakistan’s captain Azhar Ali thanked Sri Lanka on Tuesday for returning to Pakistan for the first Test tour here in a decade, after a fatal militant attack on their team in 2009 drove international cricket away.
“It’s a historic occasion and all the players are excited to be part of this,” Azhar, who has played 75 Tests — but, until now, none at home — said at a press conference in Rawalpindi with his counterpart, Dimuth Karunaratne.
“We thank the Sri Lankan team for coming here. The last Test was also against them so their visit will send a strong message to the world that we need to support each other,” he said.
Eight people were killed and several players and officials were wounded when militants opened fire on the Sri Lankan team bus travelling to a Test in Lahore in 2009.
The attack plunged Pakistan into sporting isolation, with all “home” venues played in the United Arab Emirates.
But with security dramatically improving in recent years international cricket began creeping back starting in 2015, albeit only for limited overs.
Sri Lanka will play two Tests under heavy security, one in Rawalpindi and the second in Karachi, ending a decade-long absence for cricket’s five-day format.
They will be the first home Tests for all 16 players in the Pakistan squad.
“Cricket is the biggest thing and if the youngsters can’t see matches here then it’s a big loss for our cricket and budding players,” Azhar said.