KARACHI: Monday’s scheduled arrival of the World XI side in Pakistan that will mark the end of country’s international cricket famine is, for obvious reasons, a huge source of excitement for the local fans, but the planned three-T20I spectacle is also a big deal for the international cricketers, some of whom are visiting Pakistan for the first time.
A day after their touchdown on Pakistani soil, the World XI side will make history by ending their hosts’ eight-year wait for true international cricket in their own backyard.
The September 12 opener at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium will be followed by two more on September 13 and 15.
Due to security conditions of the past, not many on the visiting international contingent have played in Pakistan before, and so naturally, they are looking forward to the experience.
As expected, the most excited of the entire bunch is predictably the affable Darren Sammy, who earlier this year visited Pakistan and famously captained Peshawar Zalmi to their title triumph in the second edition of the Pakistan Super League.
“When I visited Pakistan for the PSL final and entered the ground I felt like I was playing in St Lucia,” recalled Sammy, a two-time T20 World Cup winner, during a media talk in Dubai prior to their departure for Pakistan. “The excitement and love Pakistani fans have for the West Indies is unmatchable and I am sure all the other cricketers would [get the same love]. They are just hungry for cricket and want to see their icons play the game in front of them.”
He continued: “As soon as I heard about the tour of Pakistan, my wish was to be a part of the team and it would have been disappointing if I had not been called.”
Sammy, thanks to his fond memories, has also been a driving force in convincing his World XI teammates to not be even a slight bit worried over security situation in Pakistan.
“I did brief them quickly about my experience in Lahore for the PSL final,” he said. “We have the best security team that has also briefed them, and they are all happy to be a part of the process.”
Meanwhile, Australian all-rounder Ben Cutting revealed what his compatriot Jason Gillespie told him about Lahore.
“I ran into Jason Gillespie last week, who was part of the ‘A’ side that visited Pakistan and when I asked him about Lahore he said ‘well done, you are really going to enjoy it, particularly Lahore itself’. He spent some good time there, that was good to hear,” he said.
Amir’s participation doubtful
Fast-bowler Mohammad Amir could potentially miss the entire World XI series as him and his wife are expecting their first-born, with the delivery due sometimes next week, per ESPNcricinfo.
The 25-year-old, who played a key role in Pakistan’s Champions Trophy triumph, has been representing Essex in English county cricket of late.
He was expected to fly back home and link up with his countrymen for the much-awaited three-match T20I series against the World XI side, which would mark the end of international cricket drought in Pakistan.
However, due to the anticipated addition to his family, he is likely to be granted some time off from international duty, meaning his chances of participation in the watershed series are minimal.
While Amir’s is one of the first names on the team sheet in Tests and ODIs, he has a very limited impact in the game’s shortest format; he was rested for Pakistan’s last T20 series against the West Indies, whereas his last five T20Is have reaped only a single wicket.
Hence, his loss for the World XI series, as grave as it may seem, should not have too much bearing on Pakistan’s chances of pulling off a home win.