Sri Lanka after the attacks
Sportsworld's Rahul Pathak visits Colombo after Test side escape gun assault on tour.
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2009 13:52 GMT

Jayawardene (r) talks to Sportsworld after arriving home from Pakistan [AL JAZEERA]
First came the attacks, then the recrimination. 

The focus following Lahore has, not surprisingly, centred on Pakistan.

But in Sri Lanka, a country that is no stranger to acts of violence, the first direct attack on their cricket team has had a profound effect.

"I think for cricket it's very sad, it's our country our team, so we're concerned," said a fan when I visited the Cricket Club cafe in Colombo a day after 12 gunmen opened fire on the Sri Lankan convoy in Lahore, killing six policemen and two civilians.

Speaking to people in the Sri Lankan capital, most had been in favour of the tour going ahead when it was announced in December.

Security doubts 

But since the events of March 3 some are asking whether the appropriate security checks were made before the Sri Lankan team left for Pakistan.

Saddi Taufiq is a senior journalist with the Colombo-based Nation newspaper.

He says the team were promised high level security by the authorities in Pakistan.

"When the tour was decided, the Pakistan government gave assurances that the team would receive the same treatment as a Head of State," he said. 

"If that wasn't the case then I think there will be a question mark over Pakistan cricket."

In his last series as captain Sri Lanka's Mahela Jayawardene, perhaps aware of the delicate political situation, was diplomatic when talking about the team's security.

"We felt we had same security that we'd had on previous trips," said Jayawardene, who has now been replaced by fellow batsman Kumar Sangakkara.

"There were a lot of people around the hotel and accompanying us to the ground. 

"The other details about the closure of the roads and intelligence, I really don't know."

Less in Lahore

However, his coach Trevor Bayliss said security differed depending on what city you were in.

"In Karachi we had the small trucks out in the front and some behind," said the Australian.

A Pakistani policeman on guard after the attack in Lahore [AFP]
"We also had a truck either side of us with guys standing up through the roof with a fixed machine gun.

"That wasn't there in Lahore so there was probably a little bit less in Lahore than in Karachi, and definitely less than what was seen when we were there for the one-day series a month before."

So who is taking responsibility for the safety of the Sri Lankan team before they play abroad?

At the moment it's the country's sports minister Gamini Lokuge. 

He's been in effective charge of Sri Lankan cricket since the previous Sri Lanka Cricket Board chairman, the former World Cup-winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga, was sacked late last year. 

He says they did speak to the Pakistan government about security before the tour. 


"When we accepted the invitation to tour we questioned the situation in Pakistan," he said. 

"Their (Pakistan) government and cricket board assured us that we would receive VIP security."

Interestingly the Sri Lankans didn't employ an independent security advisor like the one used by the England team before their tour of India in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.

That's something that may now change and the Sri Lankan president says he will put in measures to ensure a greater degree of professionalism in the cricket board. 

That will undoubtedly mean extra security for the players.

A source from within the team told me that that could mean Sri Lanka could send their own security detail with the side on future tours.

As for the future of another tour to Pakistan – a voice of hope from a former Test player, Sidath Wettimuny. 

Pakistan welcome

He remembers fondly the welcome he received when he toured Pakistan in the past. 

Wettimuny also says the bond between the two nations will always be strong. 

Pakistan often toured Sri Lanka despite the threat of terrorism there and he's confident that cricketing relations between the two will continue.

"I certainly hope so, we may yet be one of the first sides to go back there," he said.

"The team will just have to be more cautious."

Al Jazeera
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