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December 26, 2008
Sri Lanka's president Mahinda Rajapakse has cleared the national team's tour of Pakistan next month. The series had been confirmed by the Pakistan board last week but its status became uncertain after the Sri Lankan interim board, headed by Arjuna Ranatunga, was dissolved on Tuesday by the country's sports minister Gamini Lokuge.
Sri Lanka's foreign minister Rohitha Bogollagama announced the decision to tour after talks with President Mahinda Rajapakse. The foreign ministry said in a statement, "Minister Bogollagama is of the view that sport is an effective means of promoting connectivity between nations and thereby enhancing friendship and mutual goodwill between countries." The tour, it said, is scheduled to run from January 20 to February 25,
Unsurprisingly, the decision has been welcomed by a Pakistan starved of top-flight, international cricket. Javed Miandad, director general PCB, asked people to come out and watch the series. "Not only the cricket fraternity but the whole of Pakistan is thankful to the Sri Lankan president for clearing their tour to Pakistan," he told AFP
"I hope more and more people come to watch Sri Lanka play in Pakistan because we want to prove to the world that Pakistan is safe and secure for cricket," he added. His views were echoed by Shoaib Malik, Pakistan's captain. "It's great news. It will give us some much needed international cricket and we are determined to do well."
Though a succession of reports in recent days had cast doubts on the tour, the PCB had privately remained confident it would go ahead. Board officials were due to meet their Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) counterparts in Kuala Lumpur for an Asian Cricket Council moot and it is believed details will be finalised there on Saturday.
Earlier in the day Ijaz Butt, the PCB chairman, said that Lokuge had assured Pakistani officials of the series receiving government clearance. "Our High Commissioner has spoken to the sports minister, who has assured him the tour is on but, under government policies, it has to be cleared by the Sri Lankan foreign ministry," Butt told PTI.
"As is the usual practice the Sri Lankan cricket authorities have to get security clearance from their foreign office. The foreign office will in turn will seek assurances from our government for proper security arrangements to be made for the series," he said.
India had originally been scheduled to tour Pakistan early next year but called off the visit after last month's terror attacks in Mumbai. Sri Lanka are scheduled to play three Tests and five ODIs, instead of three ODIs and a Twenty20 international as had been proposed by Pakistan originally. Though the itinerary is yet to be finalised the Tests are likely to be played in Lahore, Multan and Karachi, while the ODIs will be shared by Karachi, Lahore and possibly Faisalabad.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.