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Karunaratne aims to make his 'first tour to Pakistan' special
Sri Lanka Tour of Pakistan

Karunaratne aims to make his 'first tour to Pakistan' special

Image Courtesy: SLC/Twitter

Sri Lanka's Test squad led by skipper Dimuth Karunaratne has landed in Pakistan to mark the first instance of a red-ball series taking place in the country in over a decade.

Sri Lanka was the last team to play a Test series in Pakistan, which was abruptly abandoned midway through the tour following the deadly attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009.

Eight people lost their lives while several players and officials were wounded when militants targeted the convoy of buses en route to the Gaddafi Stadium.

The devastating incident forced Pakistan into sporting isolation with international teams refusing to travel to the South Asian nation due to security concerns.

Although the gradual resumption of international cricket in Pakistan has been underway since the Zimbabwe tour in 2015, Test matches have remained absent from the team's home fixtures as they had to make do with a neutral venue - the United Arab Emirates.

The two-Test series, part of the World Test Championship, will kick off in Rawalpindi as the second game will be conducted in Karachi's National Stadium.

"Touchdown Islamabad," Pakistan Cricket Board wrote on its official Twitter account, alongside a video showing the Sri Lankan players being welcomed at the airport.

"This is my first tour to Pakistan," said Karunaratne, one of the ten players who chose to withdraw from the team's recent ODI and T20I series in Pakistan.

"After the 2009 incident, players were scared to tour Pakistan but in the last two years or so Sri Lanka and other teams have toured Pakistan," he added.

With Sri Lanka having named a full-strength squad featuring the likes of Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal in the team, an evenly matched contest is expected between the two sides.

The visitors have been provided top-level security, usually reserved for heads of state and Karunaratne hoped this trend would continue throughout their stay in Pakistan.

"We want to play good cricket in Pakistan and hope they give us some good security."

Meanwhile, PCB chief executive Wasim Khan termed the moment a "historic occasion" for Pakistan cricket.

"Pakistan's losses due to non-hosting of international cricket have been substantial," he told AFP.

"Pakistan cricket supporters have been denied the opportunity to see their heroes play live in our national stadiums."

He heralded the Pakistan Super League matches held in Karachi as the key factor in finally convincing cricket boards to send their respective teams to Pakistan.

"The eight (PSL) matches in Karachi earlier this year... were eye-openers for the 43 foreign cricketers who returned as our ambassadors," Wasim said.