Sun, Dec 28, 2008 - Page 20 News List

Sri Lankan officials give go-ahead for tour of Pakistan

AFP , COLOMBO

Sri Lanka has given the green light for the national cricket team to tour Pakistan next month in place of India, who canceled their five-week series over the Mumbai attacks.

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama announced the decision after talks with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, who sanctioned the tour, which will run from Jan. 20 to Feb. 25, the foreign ministry said.

“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 ministry said in a statement.

Last week, Sri Lanka’s cricket board said it had agreed to replace India and would play five one-day internationals and three Tests.

Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik welcomed the announcement, saying: “It’s great news. It will give us some much needed international cricket and we are determined to do well.”

The director-general of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Javed Miandad, said: “Not only the cricket fraternity but the whole of Pakistan is thankful to the Sri Lankan president for clearing their tour to Pakistan. 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.”

Pakistan has not played a Test match since last December.

India called off their tour of Pakistan after New Delhi refused to grant the team permission to travel across the border in the wake of last month’s attacks on Mumbai.

The PCB said it would lose at least US$25 million because of the cancelation but would recover some of the money by hosting Sri Lanka.

Australia refused to tour Pakistan in March over security fears.

Then in August, the International Cricket Council was forced to put off the elite eight-nation Champions Trophy to be hosted by Pakistan after South Africa pulled out of the event over security fears.

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