Depleted Sri Lanka squad departs for Pakistan tour despite security concerns

Ten senior players, citing security concerns, have opted out of the tour

Sri Lanka's cricket captain Lahiru Thirimanne (R) and teammates look on as Buddhist monks chant prayers for their success during a ceremony in Colombo on Septemer 24, 2019, prior to the team's departure for a cricket tour in Pakistan. Sri Lanka's cricket board on September 19 said it will go ahead with its tour of Pakistan despite fears that players could be the targets of terror attacks during the six-match visit. / AFP / ISHARA S. KODIKARA

Sri Lanka's depleted national squad left for Pakistan on Tuesday expressing confidence in security promises by the hosts despite reports that the team could be targeted by militants.

The Sri Lanka team were attacked in Lahore in 2009. Since then most international teams have refused to tour the South Asian country, leaving Pakistan to play nearly all their "home" games in the UAE.

Ten senior players, citing security concerns, have opted out of the tour comprising three one-day internationals and three Twenty20 matches beginning on Friday.

But the captain of the Twenty20 squad, Dasun Shanaka, said he had no misgivings about returning to Pakistan after they played a Twenty20 international in Lahore in October 2017, their first since the 2009 attack.

"I have been there before," Shanaka said just before the team left Colombo where they were blessed by saffron-robed Buddhist monks.

"I am satisfied with the security arranged for us and I am happy to lead my team to Pakistan. We hope to give a good fight to our very strong hosts."

ODI skipper Lahiru Thirimanne said he also had no concerns and they had been given assurances of a very high degree of protection in Pakistan, usually reserved for visits by heads of state.

Sri Lanka's cricket board received the all-clear from the defence ministry last week to go ahead with the tour after establishing that there was no threat.

Pakistani cricket fans display tickets for the upcoming cricket match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka in Lahore on September 21, 2019. Pakistan on September 21 left out veteran batsman Mohammad Hafeez for next week's series start against Sri Lanka, who are touring the country for the first time since they were targeted in a terror attack. / AFP / ARIF ALI

The 2009 attack left six players injured when gunmen attacked their bus. Six Pakistan policemen and two civilians were killed.

Tour schedule:

One-day internationals (all in Karachi): September 27, 29, October 2.

Twenty20 internationals (all Lahore): October 5, 7, 9