As doubts continue to hover around India's tour to Pakistan next month, options have finally begun to emerge for a cricket-starved Pakistan. Though no official contact has yet been made between the boards, Sri Lanka has already expressed its readiness to replace India for the tour.
Senior officials of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) say they would be willing to consider any such offer seriously and foresee no problem with security. "We have not been approached by the PCB, but if a tour is proposed we will give it serious consideration," Duleep Mendis, chief executive SLC, told Cricinfo.
The board chairman, Arjuna Ranatunga, has also assured Pakistan of his support if India pulls out. "We will not hesitate sending our team to Pakistan if we are invited," Ranatunga told PTI. "Pakistan has proved it can provide adequate security, as it did during the Asia Cup Cricket tournament," he said.
The PCB is keen to stress that no contact has been made yet. As far as the board is concerned, says a senior official, India is coming for a series of three Tests, five ODIs and one Twenty20 unless it indicates otherwise.
"Nobody has approached Sri Lanka yet," Salim Altaf, chief operating officer PCB, told Cricinfo. "Nobody has spoken from the board to anyone as a replacement because we haven't yet received a positive or negative from the BCCI."
Though India's tour was in doubt anyway over security concerns, the chances of it going ahead have fallen further in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks. One fallout of those was heightened political and diplomatic tension between the two countries. The Indian board says it is willing to tour Pakistan but only if it gets a clearance from the government. A decision is still pending.
Indeed, the PCB has already begun implementing the standard operating procedures for the series, due to begin from January 6. Security and ticketing arrangements, work on floodlights and turnstiles, said a board official, had already been put into practice.
In case India does pull out, SLC are indeed understood to be keen to tour Pakistan. They face a drought of sorts following the tour of Bangladesh in December-January. After the two Tests and a tri-series, involving Zimbabwe as the third team, their next assignment isn't until June, when they participate in the World Twenty20. An ODI series against Zimbabwe is scheduled for February, but it is unlikely to be a financially-lucrative option and a Pakistan tour, in that sense, would be preferable.
Pakistan haven't played any Tests in 2008 and their last one-day series was against West Indies in Abu Dhabi in November. Any cricket against credible opposition will be the greatly appreciated.
More will emerge after December 27, when board officials from both sides are likely to meet at the executive board meeting of the Asian Cricket Council in Kuala Lumpur. By then, hopes the PCB, a decision will have been made by India.