Sri Lanka in talks with Pakistan for ODI series ahead of the World Cup Qualifiers

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Sri Lanka in talks with Pakistan for ODI series ahead of the World Cup Qualifiers

Sri Lanka team celebrating ©ICC

Three years after their previous ODI bilateral series against Pakistan at home, Sri Lanka are in talks to tour Pakistan for a three-match series ahead of the Women's World Cup Qualifier, scheduled in Zimbabwe from November 21. If this tour goes ahead, this will be the Sri Lankan team’s first international assignment since T20 World Cup in March 2020.

Pakistan were scheduled to play two T20Is and three ODIs against England at home starting from October 13, but the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced the withdrawal from this series on September 20, citing players' and staff’s "mental and physical well-being" and security concerns. After this withdrawal, talks of the bilateral series between hosts and Sri Lanka are happening as a last-minute arrangement ahead of the important global tournament for both teams.

For Hashan Tillakaratne, this will be his first international assignment since taking over as Sri Lanka’s head coach in June 2021. “This was a sudden arrangement. It’s a superb opportunity before the World Cup qualifiers to assess our strength,” he told the Sri Lankan newspaper Daily FT.

“The last two months we have been working very hard towards improving our game. This is a superb benchmark to assess our present status and how good we are.”

Tillakaratne, who took over from interim coach Lanka de Silva, told ESPNcricinfo that the team has been preparing since October last year.

"From October onwards we're trying to play at least nine games with the Under-17 side boys. We also finished a three-week practice program in Dambulla, which went off very well. So what we're trying to do is go through the process and give them more challenges in due course," he said.

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It is likely that the 23-year-old Harshitha Madhavi will most likely lead the Sri Lanka squad in the absence of regular captain, Chamari Atapattu, is currently isolating in Australia ahead of the seventh edition of Women’s Big Bash League, scheduled to begin on October 14.

The entire schedule of the tour is yet to be confirmed by the hosts Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), but if it goes according to the schedule, the 17-players Sri Lankan squad will leave for Pakistan on October 15. They are expected to spend seven days in self-isolation, and they will get a practice match ahead of the three ODIs as well.

Sri Lanka Cricket board CEO, Ashley de Silva, said the long hiatus of almost 18 months for the team was due to a lack of resource management. "There was a time that we wanted to get them down to Sri Lanka, but due to the fact that we were playing so many tournaments, we couldn't create so many bubbles at the same time," he said. "We were also having a problem with the resources; we couldn't find the necessary amount of doctors to handle so many bubbles.”

"But we were on the lookout for a window. Now that the window has opened up, and they invited us, we jumped at the idea," he concluded.