The International Cricket Council is planning to send a World XI to Pakistan in late September for a four-match Twenty20 series in Lahore that will look to build on the successful staging of the Pakistan Super League final in the city on Sunday.
The four-match series at the Gaddafi Stadium – to be called The Independence Cup to mark the 70th anniversary of partition – is intended to continue the reintroduction of top-level cricket to the country after a near eight-year hiatus. The break resulted from the attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in 2009 and has meant Pakistan, bar one series against Zimbabwe two years ago, have played home internationals at neutral venues.
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Details of which players will feature in the World XI are yet to be established. Six overseas cricketers – including Kevin Pietersen, Luke Wright and Tymal Mills – withdrew from Sunday’s PSL final following the tournament’s switch from the United Arab Emirates and in light of two bomb blasts in the preceding weeks.
England’s Chris Jordan and the Middlesex batsman Dawid Malan, along with the former West Indies captain Darren Sammy, were among the eight who travelled as, amid a military-style security operation that saw the city in lockdown and bulletproof team buses escorted by commandoes, the match passed without incident. Peshawar Zalmi beat Quetta Gladiators by 58 runs.
Giles Clarke, the president of the England and Wales Cricket Board, heads the ICC’s Pakistan Task Force that has been looking at ways to end a drought of international cricket and stated the PSL final, while not simply a test run for the World XI series in itself, has shown cricket can be staged in Lahore.
“The desire is to give the cricket-starved Pakistani supporters the chance to see some of the world’s finest players in live action,” Clarke said. “The world of cricket needs to help Pakistan, who cannot continue to play their home fixtures overseas. The youth need inspiring, and the national teams need far more cricket played in familiar terrain. Furthermore, the terrorists cannot win and cricket must not give up on Pakistan.”
The World XI series overseas team will assemble in Dubai on 17 September, before flying to Lahore for four matches on the 22nd, 23rd, 28th and 29th, and follow a similar security plan to the PSL final, the rehearsals for which were overseen by an ICC delegation who included the ECB’s security director, Reg Dickason.
Malan, speaking before playing Sunday’s final, said he made himself available after being talked through the security plans and following guarantees over player and spectator safety. “As soon as they brought out how tough it would be to get to the players, I almost felt it was my duty to come and represent the team and do the right thing by them,” he said. “Despite all the concerns that there have been in Pakistan, there has been an initiative to try to bring top-class cricket back to the country.”