Lahore: The World XI side that will tour Pakistan for a three-match T20I series in September, will be led by South Africa captain Faf du Plessis, PCB chief Najam Sethi announced in a press conference on Thursday (August 24). The first two T20Is of the Independence Cup will be played on September 12 and 13, and the final game will be played on September 15, in Lahore.
The squad boasts of as many as five South Africa players, namely Hashim Amla, David Miller, Morne Morkel and Imran Tahir, apart from skipper du Plessis himself. The star-studded 14-member squad will feature three Australians too – George Bailey, Ben Cutting and wicketkeeper-batsman Tim Paine. Darren Sammy, who was a part of the Pakistan Super League 2 Final, will lead the West Indian representation alongside Samuel Badree.
There is one player each from England, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and New Zealand, in Paul Collingwood, Tamim Iqbal, Thisara Perera and Grant Elliott respectively. The only countries which do not have a representation in the World XI squad are India, and Zimbabwe. Andy Flower was appointed coach of the touring side previously.
“I am honored to have been appointed as the captain of such a diverse, attractive and well balanced side. Like most of the players, I look forward to my maiden tour of Lahore and play my part in the safe and gradual resumption of international cricket in Pakistan,” du Plessis said on the momentous occasion.
“All the members of the squad have complete faith in the assessment and judgement of the security experts who have assured that there will be no compromise on the safety and security of all those involved in the series. As professionals, we are being paid to play in the series but the bottom line is that if we don’t feel safe, no amount of money can get us there. In this background, we will land in Lahore with nothing except cricket on our minds.
“In my career, I have featured in some very exciting matches against Pakistan but to play in Pakistan in front of its passionate supporters, will be a unique experience which I cannot wait to explain. As a player I understand the importance of playing in front of home crowds and that is something I am sure that Pakistani players will relish,” du Plessis added.
The PCB chairman, who has been in the public eye for his constant attempts to bring international cricket to Pakistan, looked a relieved man at the press conference but didn’t conceal the enormity of the efforts that they had to put in to get as close to this. “From putting this World XI together to getting people on board, to pull in 1.2 billion dollars to put in place the requisite security plans for the security agents and officials to visit our country and assess the arrangements, all of this would not have been possible without the relentless support of Giles Clarke,” Sethi said.
“You would know that he also heads the Pakistan Task Force unit. We are indebted to Mr. Clarke for the great effort he has put in bringing all of this together for all of us. I thank him for his support, and I know the whole of Pakistan is thankful to him too.
“The three-member security cell will arrive in the first week of September. We just finalised it over a conversation today. They will oversee all the arrangements and will discuss it with the Punjab government. Following this, the team would arrive and we get started with the series,” he further added.
“I must confess this was a difficult project to take up. All of us wanted to make this happen but there were so many elements involved, you need assistance from the government, administration, police, rangers, army, and FICA is involved too. Getting them on board was the most difficult task. There were a lot of issues and we worked steadily towards resolving all of them. There were financial challenges too.
“See, there are only 15 odd days remaining now, and today, we have received the names of the players. Broadcasters wanted the names of the players for the rights to be sold, you can assume the challenges involved.
“Now my next challenge is to host cricket in Karachi. I have received numerous calls asking for the same, from the governor, media and so many others. That truly is my next objective. As of date, the foreign players and the security experts are not ready for it. We will look to take PSL to Karachi, once that is staged successfully, the roads to more cricket there would open up,” Sethi noted.
Pakistan are also due to host Sri Lanka and West Indies, after the conclusion of the three-T20I series against World XI. The Windies are expected to visit Pakistan some time in late November for a three-match T20I series.
Pakistan, who haven’t hosted any high-profile international cricket ever since the terror attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in March 2009, lost their share of cricket matches during the 2011 World Cup which was co-hosted by India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The only teams who travelled to Pakistan in this period were Zimbabwe and Afghanistan. The peaceful hosting of the Pakistan Super League 2017 final in Lahore painted a positive image in their bid towards bringing international cricket back to their country.
David Richardson, the ICC chief executive, said that the governing body is making every effort to ensure international cricket returns to Pakistan.
“The ICC wants to see regular international cricket being played safely in all its Member countries and the World XI playing Pakistan in Lahore next month is a step towards that for the PCB.
“The PCB’s plans for the tour will include comprehensive security arrangements for the safety and security of the players, officials, media and spectators. As such, the ICC is fully supportive of these games. That said, all the stakeholders will remain vigilant and re-evaluate the situation if required.
“We are optimistic that this will be the next step in a steady and safe return of international cricket to Pakistan,” he added.
What the players and coach said:
Hashim Amla: I am looking forward to the trip to Pakistan. The rehabilitation of my shoulder is progressing well and I am confident of being fit for the matches.”
Andy Flower: “I have visited Pakistan in 1993, 1996 and 1998 with the Zimbabwe cricket team. I have enjoyed all my previous tours of Pakistan and look forward to returning to Lahore next month. All the players are satisfied and comfortable with the security arrangements that will be put in place for the series and are happy to be a part of the first step towards the safe return of international cricket in Pakistan.
“We now look forward to playing some exciting cricket, so that we can entertain the Lahore crowd who have waited long enough to see local as well as international stars live in their backyard.”
Sarfraz Ahmed: “I am really excited to see the World XI team coming to Pakistan and I keenly look forward to play in front of a committed crowd who support us. I can assure all Pakistani cricket fans that we have missed playing in front of them, like they have missed watching us live in action.
“But this wait is about to end and I am sure better times lie ahead for all of us. I am confident that through this tour of World XI, the global cricket community, including players, media and visitors will get a better understanding and perception of Pakistan, which is a peace loving and extremely hospitable nation.
“I would like to congratulate PCB and ICC for making this tour happen and I look forward to some exciting matches in front of a packed Gaddafi stadium. I am confident that following the success of these matches, Pakistan will not only host regular international series but at all international cricket centres as well.”
Tamim Iqbal: “Secondly I think representing the World XI is a big mater and I am really proud of that. I think ten cricketing nations are like a family. To bring back cricket in Pakistan someone have to take the initiative and so I think it is a wonderful opportunity by arranging such an event. It should have started at some time and it is wonderful thing that we are the first one to take the steps. If it had happened earlier it would have been better.”
World XI Squad: Faf du Plessis (C), Hashim Amla, Samuel Badree, George Bailey, Paul Collingwood, Ben Cutting, Grant Elliott, Tamim Iqbal, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Tim Paine, Thisara Perera, Imran Tahir, Darren Sammy