Pakistan set to showcase its security capabilities to the cricketing world for the third time in eight months on Sunday as it hosts Sri Lanka in a Twenty20 international at Lahore’s heavily guarded Gaddafi Stadium.
Security plans for the third Twenty20 match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka have been finalised, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Operations Lahore Haider Ashraf told DawnNews on Saturday.
“The security officials are trying their best to ensure that the match is played in a secure environment,” he said. “All institutions, as well as the Sri Lankan squad, are satisfied with the security arrangements.”
The traffic plan has been laid out ahead of the match and four points have been marked for parking for spectators, which include Punjab University hostel and Liberty LDA Parking Plaza. More than two thousand traffic wardens have been appointed for duty.
Vehicles will not be allowed to pass from Ferozepur Road to Liberty Chowk. The route from Muslim Town Mor to Kalma Chowk will also be closed for traffic. M.M. Alam Road, however, will be open for all kinds of traffic.
A “dispersal plan” has also been laid out, CTO Lahore Rai Ejaz said. Once the match is over, fans will leave Gaddafi Stadium through shuttle services.
“This is not just a cricket match, it is a matter of Pakistan’s honour,” the DIG maintained.
He advised the residents of Lahore to avoid visiting Liberty Market unless they have “some important business or wish to watch the match”.
“We have tried our best to ensure that residents do not face problems regarding traffic this time,” Ashraf claimed.
The Pakistan Super League final in March also in Lahore featured several overseas players. It was the first small step toward winning back the confidence of foreign teams and reviving international cricket at home after an attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in 2009 during a test match at the same stadium in Lahore.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), in collaboration with the ICC, last month organised a three-match T20 Independence Cup against a World XI, led by South Africa’s Faf du Plessis, at Gaddafi Stadium.
And now Sri Lanka will round off a T20 series which Pakistan already leads 2-0 after winning in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Pakistan has only hosted Zimbabwe for a short limited-overs series two years ago since the 2009 attack.
Since then UAE has become Pakistan’s “home” venue away from home as the PCB gradually tries to convince foreign teams that it’s safe to play international cricket in Pakistan.
Several thousand security officials will be on duty on Sunday with armed military personnel around the stadium and on the route of team buses to the stadium.
Hundreds of security cameras have also been installed to keep a close watch on the movement of spectators.
Asanka Gurusinha and Hashan Tillakaratne two of Sri Lanka’s survivors in the 2009 attack that killed eight people will be coming to Lahore again as team manager and batting coach respectively.
But several Sri Lanka players won’t be there. Regular captain Upul Tharanga, Lasith Malinga, Niroshan Dickwella, Suranga Lakmal and Akila Dananjaya all pulled out.
Cricket-starved fans have bought tickets in large numbers to witness Sunday’s match despite the series already being won by Pakistan.
“What’s important to me is that we are hosting an international match and show the world that it’s safe to play in Pakistan,” said Ghulam Abbas, a college student. “I think after the West Indies tour, the doors of international cricket will be wide open in Pakistan.”
Pakistan is expected to host West Indies next month for a three-match T20 series in Lahore.