Pakistan news May 22, 2014

PCB inviting Sri Lanka to tour Pakistan - Sethi

Najam Sethi, the PCB chairman, has said the Pakistan board is inviting Sri Lanka over for a series, asserting that Pakistan is "ready" to host international cricket in the country once again.

The PCB's invite follows Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa's statement on Tuesday, when, on the sidelines of a summit in China, he said that his cricket team "must go to Pakistan and play there". The PCB decided to write Sri Lanka Cricket, offering its team a series in Pakistan.

Pakistan has been a no-go zone for major international cricket since March 2009, when terrorists attacked the Sri Lanka team bus on its way to Gaddafi Stadium on the third morning of a Test. Several cricketers were injured in the attack, including Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Ajantha Mendis, Thilan Samaraweera and Tharanga Paravitarana. Six security men and two civilians were killed.

"We must go and play there also," President Rajapaksa said during a meeting with Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain. "We can't allow the terrorists to have control."

Responding swiftly to the statement, Sethi said: "We are very much concerned about being isolated, without major international cricket in Pakistan. We have heard the positive statement by the president of Sri Lanka and we are writing them and offering them a home series in Pakistan.

"We are writing them that there is no security problem and you are welcome and we will provide you the maximum security with the help of the Punjab Government.

"We are ready to host them and will chalk out a suitable window for them. Our top priority is to host an international team and we are making efforts to do that."

This is not the first time the Sri Lanka government has hinted at having intentions to help Pakistan in breaking their isolation, but the discussions never bred anything concrete previously. The PCB also tried hard to negotiate home series' with the Bangladesh Cricket Board, but the series never happened, with Bangladesh twice withdrawing after seemingly having committed.

The PCB had tried to win back the confidence of players by organising a lucrative Twenty20 league, offering top players from around the world a chance to earn over $100,000, tax-free, in 10 days. But the plan was hit by logistical problems, and the board had to postpone it indefinitely.

Pakistan is set to tour Sri Lanka in August to play two Tests and three one-day internationals. They will then host Australia and New Zealand in the UAE, from October 3 to December 19.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson

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