Lahore, Pakistan (AP) — South Africa captain Faf du Plessis was comforted by the security arrangements in agreeing to lead the World XI for its breakthrough cricket tour of Pakistan.
The World XI – made up also of 13 others players from New Zealand, England, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, West Indies and Australia – is the first major cricket team to tour Pakistan in eight years. Most of the cricket world has shunned visiting Pakistan since 2009, when gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan team convoy.
“When this whole thing came about, you do think about that (security) sort of things,” du Plessis said on arriving on Monday in Lahore, amid tight security. “But as soon as we spoke to the people who were in control of the security, the planning … as a player all you want was that peace of mind and they gave it to us.
“They are very confident that this will be smooth sailing. We just wanted to get here and experience what was going to be something that was going to be a huge turnaround in world cricket.”
The players were summoned by Andy Flower, the World XI coach and former Zimbabwe captain. Flower took feedback from his younger brother Grant, who has been the Pakistan batting coach for the past three years.
“I spoke with him after Giles Clarke had first approached this idea with me,” Andy Flower said, referencing Clarke, the head of the International Cricket Council’s Pakistan Task Force.
“I was quite comfortable with the feedback that he was giving me and therefore, I was quite comfortable talking to the international players and encouraging them to take part in this venture.”
Clarke said the successful staging of the Pakistan Super League final in March in Lahore helped the Pakistan Cricket Board’s cause to organize the World XI series. The final included the West Indies’ Darren Sammy and Marlon Samuels.
“If the PSL final had not been played here, I don’t know how easy this would have been,” Clarke said. “Everybody had the courage and the confidence to play here and that was an absolutely essential (factor) for this series.”
The ICC has sent security experts to monitor the three Twenty20s between Pakistan and the World XI at Gaddafi Stadium on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. Also, at least 500 meters of the main road leading to a five-star hotel where the teams are staying is completely cordoned off.
“It’s fair to say that this will be the first time when we actually come into play cricket for something which is much bigger than the game itself,” du Plessis said. “We look forward to what will be a great week of cricket.”
PCB chairman Najam Sethi said he hoped the series’ success will pave the way for a T20 against Sri Lanka next month, and a planned three-match T20 series against the West Indies.
“We know this is a small step in many ways but a huge leap for Pakistan,” Sethi said. “We now expect more doors to open.”
Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed said he was looking forward to playing in front of the home fans for the first time since winning the Champions Trophy in England in June.
“I am very excited to have cricket back home,” Ahmed said. “Nothing is more joyous (than for the team) to be playing cricket in Pakistan. We are hopeful that after this series, international cricket will be regularly played in the country.”