World XI cricketers arrive at the Gaddafi Stadium in style for first T20I against Pakistan

Sport360 staff 12/09/2017
The ICC World XI arrive in their 'tuk-tuks'.

The ICC World XI got a rousing reception from a sell-out crowd at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore as they arrived for the first of the historic three-match T20I series against Pakistan.

The much awaited event signals the return of international cricket to Pakistan in a significant way after years of isolation.

There was a celebratory atmosphere in the stadium as fans queued up hours in advance to secure tickets as the Independence Cup got underway under massive security-surveillance.

The 14-man World XI squad led by Faf du Plessis could be seen soaking in the atmosphere as they entered the stadium.

The South African hailed the return of cricket to the South Asian nation.

"It's not about ourselves, great to see we can play a small part in bringing cricket back to Pakistan. There are no egos involved," said du Plessis.

The second and third matches are also in Lahore on Wednesday and Thursday.

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Whirlwind day for the ICC World XI in Lahore ahead of historic T20I against Pakistan

Ashish Peter 11/09/2017
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Sarfraz Ahmed and Faf du Plessis jointly display the Independence Cup.

The star-studded ICC World XI have had quite a day after touching down in Lahore for the historic three-match T20I series against Pakistan.

The 14-man squad, led by South Africa’s Faf du Plessis, arrived in Lahore airport after their flight from Dubai in the early hours of Monday morning.

The collection of international cricket stars picked for the Independence Cup clashes against the hosts had conducted a two-day training camp in Dubai in preparation for the series.

The squad which arrived amidst massive security, checked into a local Lahore hotel upon their arrival but there was not much rest to be had for Du Plessis and the team coach, Andy Flower.

Faf du Plessis and Andy Flower unveil the World XI playing jersey.

Faf du Plessis and Andy Flower unveil the World XI playing jersey.

The two were on hand to jointly address a press conference conducted by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) in the afternoon. The conference was also addressed by PCB Chairman Najam Sethi and ICC administrator Giles Clarke.

The media interaction saw the reveal of the playing jersey for the World XI which was followed by the unveiling of the Independence Cup trophy where Du Plessis was joined by his Pakistan counterpart Sarfraz Ahmed.

After the media formalities in the afternoon, the World XI squad returned to the Gaddafi Stadium for a three-hour practice session in the evening as they familiarized themselves with the local conditions.

Former England international Paul Collingwood could not contain his excitement at taking part in the historic contest as he took to Instagram to share a training video.

The Englishman had earlier alluded to the warm welcome shown by the Pakistan supporters in a separate Instagram post.

The all-rounder compared the feeling to being a little kid on Christmas and he was clearly enjoying his time back on the cricket pitch.

The much awaited series sees the return of international cricket to Pakistan after years of isolation following the terrorist attacks on the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009.

The two sides will play the first of the three T20Is on Tuesday at the Gaddafi Stadium where all the matches are scheduled to take place.

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World XI's visit to Pakistan more than just about cricket for Faf du Plessis and Andy Flower

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Andy Flower and Faf du Plessis unveil the playing jersey for the World XI.

The World XI’s tour of militancy-racked Pakistan is more than just a game, captain Faf du Plessis and coach Andy Flower said Monday, amid high hopes it will revive international cricket in the country.

South Africa’s du Plessis told reporters in Lahore it was a “huge honour” to be playing the highest-profile event in cricket-mad Pakistan since a militant attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009.

Pakistan has not hosted top-level international cricket — barring five limited-over matches against minnows Zimbabwe in 2015 — since that attack, which killed eight people and injured seven players and staff.

“It’s not every day you get an opportunity to play in something that is much more than just about yourself and your own team or your own country,” du Plessis said.

World XI coach Andy Flower, who toured Pakistan in 1993, 1996 and 1998 with Zimbabwe, said he and his team were “privileged” to be there.

Faf du Plessis and Andy Flower speak to the media in Lahore on Monday.

Faf du Plessis and Andy Flower speak to the media in Lahore on Monday.

“We, as the World XI, would also like to offer our sympathy and condolences to all those who have lost their loved ones in terrorist acts in Pakistan,” he said.

“These cricketers are here to play their part in the safe and steady return of international cricket in Pakistan, so that the enthusiastic and diehard fans and followers of Pakistan cricket can once again start watching their stars in their own backyard.”

Officials have said there will be “foolproof” security for the three-match Twenty20 series starting Tuesday in Lahore.

Both the hotel and stadium will be cordoned off, with 9,000 police and paramilitary staff deployed.

Shops and restaurants around the venue will be shut while spectators will have to pass through multiple security checkpoints.

Du Plessis said he was confident in the security arrangements.

“You do think about that sort of thing, but as soon as we spoke to the people who were in control of the security… as a player all you want was that peace of mind and they gave it to us.”

Once the players boarded the plane, he said, their fears vanished as they began to look forward to taking part in what he described as a “huge turnaround in world cricket”.

Since the 2009 attack Pakistan have been forced to play most of their “home” games overseas.

But security has dramatically improved in the last two years, signalling hopes for the slow revival of international sport.

Pakistan cricket Board (PCB) chairman Najam Sethi said the World XI’s arrival was a great day for Pakistan, though he admitted there was still a long way to go.

International cricket Council head Giles Clarke said it was “still a long road and a lot of work”.

But he said events such as the final of the popular Pakistan Super League in Lahore earlier this year had made the World XI tour possible.

“Everybody had the courage and the confidence to play here (after that) and that was essential for this series,” he said.

Sethi thanked the World XI players for agreeing to the tour, and said the PCB now expects “more doors to open”.

Sri Lanka are set to make a hugely symbolic return to Lahore as part of a full series against Pakistan in October. Pakistan also hope West Indies will play three T20s in the city in November.

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