Thirimanne wants focus to move from security to cricket

              Pakistani security official check a car outside the National Stadium, a venue for the upcoming Pakistan-Sri Lanka cricket series, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019 in Karachi, Pakistan. Pakistan's head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq told reporters that Sri Lanka's top players should have come for the limited-overs series in Pakistan after being assured of head-of-state-like security by the government. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — Sri Lanka captain Lahiru Thirimanne wants the focus to move from security in Pakistan to the cricket itself when their three-match ODI series starts Friday.

“The security has been really good and I must say it’s first class, we didn’t have any problems,” Thirimanne said ahead of his team’s first practice session on Thursday.

The Sri Lanka team arrived on Tuesday amid tight security and rested in their team hotel on Wednesday.

Ten of Sri Lanka’s top players pulled out of the ODI series and three Twenty20s due to security concerns. They included regular ODI captain Dimuth Karunaratne and Twenty20 captain Lasith Malinga.

It is the first time since Sri Lanka’s team bus was attacked in Lahore in 2009 that a foreign team will conduct a two-week tour of Pakistan. Major teams have avoided Pakistan since that ambush, which killed eight people and injured several players.

Only four players in the present squad had previously toured Pakistan when Sri Lanka played a one-off Twenty20 in Lahore in 2017.

“It’s about getting cricket here in Pakistan again so we have to encourage all the teams to come here and play cricket,” Thirimanne said.

Pakistan routed Sri Lanka 5-0 in a bilateral series in the United Arab Emirates in 2017. But despite its depleted squad, Thirimanne hoped his team could do better this time around.

“It’s an opportunity for them, they don’t have any pressure,” he said of his players.

Sarfaraz Ahmed will lead Pakistan in an ODI for the first time at home since being appointed skipper in 2017, and 12 of the 16 players in the Pakistan squad have never played an ODI match at home.

Sarfaraz wants it to be a special occasion.

“This is my home city, so this will obviously be memorable,” he said.

Sarfaraz warned it won’t be easy for seventh-ranked ODI team Pakistan.

“Especially in white ball cricket, you’ve seen that no team can afford to relax. We will try to play our best cricket in all three matches,” he said.

Rain might threaten the opening game, but it’s not dampening his spirits.

“My message to world cricket is very simple,” Sarfaraz said. “Pakistan needs your support and, with your support, cricket in Pakistan can become routine once more.”