Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne, who has a strong side at his disposal in Pakistan, feels it is a "great pleasure to play a part" in the revival of Test cricket in the country.
When Sri Lanka toured Pakistan for a white-ball series recently, as many as ten of their premier players had opted out, but the experienced Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal are in the ranks now, and the only major player missing is Suranga Lakmal, who is unwell.
For Karunaratne, it will be a first time playing in Pakistan in any format. "It my first experience here, but I am really excited," Karunaratne said at a press conference after the team had been welcomed in the capital city of Islamabad with around 4000 security personnel looking after their safety. "It's after ten years that we are playing a Test match in Pakistan and it's a great pleasure for me to be part of it.
"Initially, most of the senior players were reluctant to travel to Pakistan over the security situation, but after the one-day and T20 series, those players recommended us to travel here after which we decided to travel. We are delighted to be here and the arrangements are satisfactory."
While Pakistan have lost all their five Tests in the past year, three in South Africa and two in Australia, Sri Lanka have had it better, drawing a Test in New Zealand in December last year, beating South Africa 2-0 in South Africa earlier this year, and most recently drawing a Test series 1-1 at home against New Zealand.
"We played really good cricket against Pakistan in Dubai [in the UAE, in 2017] and that confidence helps me to motivate myself in this series," Karunaratne said. "Most of the guys are travelling for the first time to Pakistan and playing in Rawalpindi, it's not easy. It's a good pacy wicket. We have a few plans for each player, and we try to stick to the basics and do the right things at the right time, and get maximum out of the conditions as well."
Sri Lanka might be away from home, but they have Pakistan's former coach Mickey Arthur in their dressing room. "It's a positive thing for us. It's a big advantage for us," Karunaratne said. "Mickey was very close to the Pakistan team for the last three years, he knows each and everyone closely, even the batters and bowlers, and how the team is going to get prepared. But whatever we get we have to do the things right.
"This is the same side we are playing after Mahela [Jayawardene] and Sanga [Kumar Sangakkara], it's been four years now. We are an experienced side, Angelo, Chandimal, myself, [Lahiru] Thirimanne… lots of senior players are here, we want to play good cricket here, competitive cricket. Pakistan is a good side, they have done well in their own conditions, so we will try to play good competitive cricket."