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Since 1st March, 1999
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Security sought was head of state-like

Calcutta: Tillekaratne Dilshan has confirmed what many had been fearing — that security during the two-Test series in Pakistan had been “relatively relaxed” in comparison to the protection given in the three ODIs, in January.

That, of course, is unlikely to be reflected in the findings of the probes initiated by the Pakistan government and the provincial administration in Punjab, but assurances of “foolproof security” will no longer be taken at face value.

“I don’t want to join in any blame game and don’t wish to point fingers, but I recall having asked the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to get the government there to ensure protection on the pattern given to visiting heads of state... That was in the early stage of negotiations, before I was removed from my position late last year,” Arjuna Ranatunga told The Telegraph from Colombo.

Thanks to sports minister Gamini Lokuge, Ranatunga wasn’t the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) chairman when the agreement with the PCB was inked.

“During that stage, we’d been informed that security would indeed be on the scale given to heads of state... That it would be on the lines of what was given to all teams during the Asia Cup last June-July... I can’t comment on what happened subsequently,” Ranatunga, a World Cup-winning captain and a member of Parliament, added on Wednesday evening.

He clarified that the PCB had extended a “written invitation” to SLC after New Delhi didn’t give Team India permission to tour Pakistan. “We’d only responded to the invitation... That we would, in principle, go provided we were satisfied with the level of protection offered... Eventually, though, the split tour was finalised by others in SLC.”

Ranatunga reminded that as a token of goodwill, he’d offered to send the Sri Lanka team to India when, in the days immediately after 26/11, there were apprehensions that England wouldn’t return for the Test series.

Kevin Pietersen and Co., it may be recalled, had gone home without playing the last two ODIs.

“I’d made that offer because India and Pakistan had formed a combined team (Wills XI, led by Mohammed Azharuddin) and played in Colombo after Australia and the West Indies decided against coming to Sri Lanka for the 1996 World Cup... It was a touching show of solidarity… We, in Sri Lanka, haven’t forgotten that gesture,” Ranatunga, who’d been the captain then, said.

Ranatunga, incidentally, was heading for the Nawaloka Hospital to visit those who’d been taken there straight from the airport. “I couldn’t go earlier in the day because of commitments in Parliament,” he signed off.

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