Jayasuriya: Pakistan safe now
Karachi - Former Sri Lanka skipper Sanath Jayasuriya said on Thursday that Pakistan was safe to host foreign cricket teams, as he arrived to lead an international all-star XI in two Twenty20 matches.
Jayasuriya will captain the International World XI, featuring former South African Test players Andre Nel and Mornantau "Nantie" Hayward, against Pakistan All Stars, led by current all-rounder Shahid Afridi.
Overseas sides have shunned Pakistan over security fears since militants attacked the Sri Lankan team bus during a Test in Lahore in 2009, killing eight people.
But Jayasuriya, who was part of the Sri Lankan one-day squad two months before the tragic 2009 incident, said he hoped this weekend's matches would help internationals return to the cricket-mad country.
"I am happy to be part of these matches," Jayasuriya told reporters on his arrival. "It depends on country to country (whether they tour Pakistan) but in my opinion Pakistan is a safe country."
A number of West Indies players, including one-day specialist Ricardo Powell and pace bowler Jermaine Lawson, will also feature for the tourists.
Alvin Kallicharan, the double World Cup-winning West Indian batsman coaching the international XI, echoed Jayasuriya's optimism.
"I came here way back in 1972 to raise funds for flood victims and this time it's another noble cause: promotion of cricket in Pakistan," he said.
The matches are a personal initiative of the sports minister of Sindh province Mohammad Ali Shah, who claimed the matches had the backing of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
But the PCB has distanced itself from the matches, to be played on Saturday and Sunday in Karachi, saying the board had only provided the venue and made players available, insisting security was the responsibility of the organiser.