Former Pakistan cricket captain Waqar Younis has urged Sri Lanka to help revive the game in his country by touring Lahore later this month. The last match of the current bilateral series – a T-20 International – has been scheduled for Lahore, subject to security clearance.Pakistan has seen little cricket over the last eight years since the Sri Lankan team bus came under a terrorist attack injuring several players and support staff.
“My message to Sri Lankan players is that doesn’t worry. Come and play in Pakistan and I can vouch, with what we have seen during World XI series, that everything is fine,” Waqar told The Island.
“The last eight years have been really bad for Pakistan cricket. Pakistan has no better friend than Sri Lanka. The shooting happened to the Sri Lankan team and if they can come, it will send a strong message to rest of the world.”
“We have suffered a lot in the last eight years. Financially we have suffered. Morally we have suffered. Developing the team we have suffered. So much bad has happened to Pakistan cricket and we are behind. We need Sri Lanka’s help.”
Waqar was one of the Pakistani players who came down to Colombo to form the joint India-Pakistan team just prior to the 1996 World Cup after the Central Bank bombing with Australia and West Indies refusing to honor their World Cup fixture.
“I remember that very clearly. The Cricket Board officials came to me and asked whether I could help by going to Sri Lanka. I only asked one question. ‘What time is the flight?’ I had no hesitation to come down to Sri Lanka. It was a difficult time for Sri Lanka. You have got to help each other in difficult times. I am sure with Sri Lanka helping us it will help us to get cricket back in our country,” Waqar noted.
“I never had any concerns about touring Sri Lanka. I knew Sri Lanka was a peaceful place. I have toured Sri Lanka many times. It’s like a second home for me. People are very nice and lovely place. We always knew that we will not encounter problems.”
On the field, Waqar has had several fierce battles with Sri Lankans. Once he even broke Arjuna Ranatunga’s thumb during a Test match in 1999. But off the field, they have been best of friends.
“Arjuna and I are good mates. He is a great character. Even Aravinda. I have admired the two a lot. They have been two wonderful ambassadors of Sri Lankan cricket. Aravinda was superb batsman while Arjuna was a great leader of men. Whenever I am in Colombo, I visit Arjuna’s place for a meal.”
Waqar also praised the efforts of Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal, who batted for over nine hours to post an unbeaten 155 that set up the game for Sri Lanka.
“Chandimal batted really well. It was very tough. When he walked in, they were three down for 60 runs and he had to dig deep. I thought he played like a champion. It looks like he is getting better with time. The kind of series against India would have been tough and playing like that would have given him lot of confidence.”