Faf du Plessis to lead World XI against Pakistan

Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Najam Sethi addresses a news conference in Lahore, Pakistan, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. Sethi says international cricket will return to the country next month when a World XI plays a three-match Twenty20 series in Lahore. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

ISLAMABAD (AP) South Africa test captain Faf du Plessis will lead a World XI team to play a three-match Twenty20 series against Pakistan in Lahore next month, chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board Najam Sethi said on Thursday.

The series is aimed at reviving international cricket in Pakistan, which has hosted just Zimbabwe and Afghanistan over the last eight years since terrorists attacked the Sri Lanka cricket team bus in Lahore in 2009.

”This will be an auspicious moment for Pakistan cricket and I am positive that it will serve to open the doors of international cricket in Pakistan,” Sethi said.

Hashim Amla, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir and David Miller are the other South African players named in the World XI which also includes three from Australia, George Bailey, Tim Paine and Ben Cutting and two West Indies players, Darren Sammy and Samuel Badree.

Du Plessis said his maiden tour to Lahore will help in bringing back international cricket to Pakistan and all the players have been given security assurance.

”All the members of the squad have complete faith and trust in the assessment and judgment of the security experts, who have assured us that there will be no compromise on the safety and security of all those involved in the series,” Du Plessis said in a statement.

”As professionals, we are getting paid to play in the series, but the bottom line is that if we didn’t feel safe, no amount of money would get us there. In this background, we will land in Lahore with nothing except cricket in our minds.”

Amla, who last visited Pakistan in 2007, hopes to get recover from his shoulder injury before the three-match series, named as the ”Independence Cup” next month.

Tamim Iqbal of Bangladesh, New Zealand’s Grant Elliott, Sri Lanka’s Thisara Perera and Paul Collingwood of England complete the 14-man squad.

The squad will arrive in Lahore on Sept. 11 after a two-day camp in Dubai under the coaching of Andy Flower. The three matches will be played at the Gaddafi Stadium on Sept. 12, 13 and 15.

”All the players are satisfied and comfortable with the security arrangements that will be put in place for the series and happy to be part of the first step towards the safe return of international cricket to Pakistan,” Flower said in a statement.

Over the years the PCB has been trying hard to convince foreign teams to tour Pakistan.

It showcased stringent security arrangements when it successfully hosted the final of its premier domestic T20 tournament – also in Lahore in March in which former West Indies captain Sammy and Marlon Samuels also participated.

The series against a World XI has been given international Twenty20 status by the International Cricket Council, which formed a Pakistan Task Team under its director Giles Clarke in 2009.

”This (World XI) tour is not only important for cricket in Pakistan but also for international cricket since it opens the possibility of other teams, media and sponsors visiting Pakistan for bilateral series,” Clarke said.

”The ICC Members releasing their top players and the respective player unions backing this series is testament to the support the world has extended to Pakistan during these difficult times. The focus of everyone in the international game is the safe return of cricket to Pakistan.”

Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed said the tour will send a positive signal to the world that the country is safe for organizing international matches.

”I can assure all Pakistan 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 of all of us,” he said.