By Asif Suhail:
Passionate cricket fans in Pakistan are anxiously waiting three match T20 series with World XI next month. The composition of World XI has added their enthusiasm and soon they would watch their favourite stars in action on Pakistan soil.
Comprising top international cricketers Hashim Amla, Tamim Iqbal, Darren Sammy, Imran Tahir, Morne Morkel and led by Faf du Plessis makes it a high-profile series and Lahorites would watch not only entertainment but high quality of cricket as well.
Series with the World XI is the sole credit of the outgoing chairman Shaharyar Khan. After failing to convince BCCI and the Indian government through his trusted diplomatic friends in New Delhi to resume playing with Pakistan, Shaharyar concentrated to explore other avenues to revive international cricket in Pakistan.
He continued to raise this issue in the ICC meetings and also lobbied extensively in his One on One meetings with his counterparts and successfully convinced them to form a World XI to tour Pakistan in an attempt to resume international cricket.
Finally on June 24 the ICC board agreed to support a three-game Twenty20 series between Pakistan and a World XI side. Najam Aziz Sethi, makeshift chairman of the PCB, should avoid pilfering Shaharyar’s credit.
Unlike the Zimbabwean team’s tour to Pakistan in June 2014 when the ICC had declined to send its officials to supervise three-match T20 series, the World XI tour has their full backing.
Giles Clarke, the ICC Director who has served as the Chairman of the Pakistan Task Team since 2009, has also expressed his optimism that “the series will be the first step towards international cricket returning safely to Pakistan with further T20 International matches against Sri Lanka and the Windies pencilled in for later in the year”.
Though as an emblematic Lahori I am glad that World XI is visiting my city, the heart of Pakistan yet I am sad about Karachi, the city of lights for being deprived of even one match of the series
Clarke desires to watch the matches in the Gaddafi Stadium. This reflects the confidence of ICC Task Force on Pakistan which cemented after the successful holding of PSL final amid tight security cover provided by Pakistan army.
Many in Pakistan also believe that World XI’s tour would end eight years long jinx, started after the attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in March 2009, and foreign teams start visiting their home.
Though as an emblematic Lahori I am glad that World XI is visiting my city, the heart of Pakistan yet I am sad about Karachi, the city of lights for being deprived of even one match of the series.
Sri Lankan team was attacked in my city and I feel embarrassed for that. When the World XI was agreed to play in Lahore then why didn’t the PCB give a thought to stage one or two matches at other venues while finalizing the itinerary of the tour.
I am sure that all international players in the World XI, who according to media reports have been given $1 million each, would have no issue in playing matches at Karachi, Multan, Rawalpindi or Peshawar.
Why the PCB is giving impression to the cricket world that it is only safe playing in Lahore. We have seen some cricket tournaments being played in Quetta where some top Pakistani internationals also participated under army’s security.
Only two months ago in July some notable international football stars played an exhibition match in Karachi under army’s security. Why can’t World XI play a match in Karachi? Both Karachi and Lahore are traditional centers of producing legends of the Game of Gentleman.
Pakistan army had given successfully security cover to the foreign players during the PSL final in Lahore and the institution has once again publically expressed their resolve to provide fool proof security to the World XI. Amid these strong assurances the PCB should have staged one match at least in Karachi.
Sethi and his administrators would have to be extra vigilant particularly after US President’s Donal Trump’s recent undiplomatic statement rather warning to Pakistan which has escalated political tension in the region.
The dissidents groups can take advantage of the situation and respond viciously. In this backdrop the ICC Chief Executive David Richardson has also cautioned that “all the stakeholders will remain vigilant and re-evaluate the situation if required”.
A tweet from DG ISPR has, however, resolved that Pakistan army is ready to welcome World XI and provide them special security.