World XI visit to Lahore a success but still a long way to go for Pakistan

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What now for Pakistan cricket after a successful World XI visit?

After the successful completion of the Independence Cup which saw the return of international cricket to Pakistan after a long hiatus, the dust starts to settle on the euphoria generated by the visit of the ICC World XI.

The three-match T20I series came to a conclusion on Friday with Pakistan edging the collection of international stars 2-1, to lift the Independence Cup at the Gaddafi stadium in Lahore.

That the series went down smoothly without any incident is a testament to the efforts put in by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the ICC.

The ICC has made a concrete undertaking to facilitate the return of international cricket to the country and for the first time since the attacks on the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009, an ICC appointed official oversaw a match in Pakistan.

Former West Indies skipper Sir Richie Richardson was the designated ICC match-referee for all the three games at Lahore.

Presidential-level security was laid out for the historic series and close to 20,000 security-personnel were deployed on each of the three matchdays.

The ICC had earlier contracted an international security firm to review the security structure in the country on an annual basis for a period of three years. The same firm had conducted a security review prior to the visit of the World XI.

A successful conclusion of the Independence Cup had a lot riding on it with the series set to be a precursor for other international sides to resume their visits to the terrorism-affected country.

The efforts of the ICC and the PCB had already started bearing fruit before the series had even begun when Sri Lanka and the West Indies agreed to visit the country later this year.

Cricket West Indies (CWI) have announced a three-match T20I tour of Pakistan to take place in November while Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) have agreed to play one of the three T20Is scheduled between the two countries later this November at Lahore instead of the UAE.

The presence of CWI chief Dave Cameron at the Gaddafi stadium on Friday in company of PCB chief Najam Sethi all but confirms that the Caribbean side will undertake the visit in November.

While the visits of two international sides in the latter half of the current year bode well for Pakistan cricket, there is still a long way to go for the country to draw back major sides for a bilateral tour.

ICC chief executive Dave Richardson said on Wednesday that there will be much more needed from Pakistan to normalize international cricket in its own backyard.

When asked about the possibility of teams touring the country anytime soon owing to the successful visit of the World XI, Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland said: “I don’t see in the short term that there are any plans for us to play in Pakistan.”

A complete return of international cricket to Pakistan in the near future seems unlikely at the moment. The PCB has had to rely on heavy financial incentives for the visiting players to draw them to the country so far.

Earlier this March, to hold the final of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in Lahore, the PCB paid the participating international players up to US$50,000 while the stars of the World XI were given up to $100,000 for their participation in the Independence Cup.

The likes of Darren Sammy were paid up to $50,000 for the PSL final.

The likes of Darren Sammy were paid up to $50,000 for the PSL final.

Such expenditures in the long-run will not be sustainable for the PCB but that is the price it pays currently to assure the cricketers of their safety.

While the Independence Cup is a good beginning to the ultimate goal of the PCB, it will take baby-steps for international cricket to return in a big way to the country.

While for now the West Indies and Sri Lanka might not be the crème-de-crème of international cricket, a successful conclusion of their visit could open up more doors.

The complete process will take some time but the road-map has now been laid out by the PCB and the ICC. It might still take a few more years to see the best of world cricket to resume their sojourns to the country but for now, short series against the likes of Sri Lanka and West Indies could form a solid foundation for the future.

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South Africa captain Faf du Plessis hails Pakistan progress for international cricket after World XI series

Sport360 staff 14:41 16/09/2017
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Faf du Plessis

South African skipper Faf du Plessis Saturday admitted he was nervous ahead of the World XI tour of Pakistan but praised the hosts for ensuring a safe series which he said would help its revival of international cricket.

Apart from five limited-overs games against minnows Zimbabwe in 2015, Pakistan had not hosted top-level international cricket since militants attacked the bus of the visiting Sri Lankan team in March 2009, killing eight people and wounding seven players and staff.

“When I first thought of coming, obviously there was little bit of nervousness within myself,” said du Plessis, who led the World XI for the Twenty20 three match series.

“Now going through this week with complete different emotions and feelings, I’m very happy with our time here, we’ve really enjoyed it as a team,” he told an end-of-tour press conference.

Pakistan celebrated the return of international cricket with a thumping 33-run win at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium on Friday to clinch the series 2-1.

Hosting the short series is a major step towards convincing international teams to return, with Sri Lanka already due to play a Twenty20 match in Lahore on October 29.

Du Plessis said he was deeply impressed by his time in Lahore but was not sure he could convince South Africa to tour just yet.

Pakistan players

“I can just relate my experiences over here, but they will have to be a complete different set of things put in place for South Africa to come and tour here,” he said.

“What I can say is the fact that we’ve been in Lahore here now and we did feel safe,” he said.

“If you do out all those things that were in place (for this series) then definitely another step, another step, another step, to hopefully (bring) cricket back into Pakistan.”

World XI coach Andy Flower agreed Pakistan was making progress towards reviving international cricket.

“This is the step taken in the right direction. This is one step forward, it’s been very successful and very well received here in Pakistan, here in Lahore,” said the ex-England coach, who assembled a World XI with players from seven countries.

“The coverage of the three games around the world has gone down very well. The security operations has made players safe and secure, so first step has been taken so there will be more steps along the way,” said Flower.

“I’ve never been part of a game where there’s been so much emotions and appreciativeness from the crowd when they are cheering you as if you are playing at your own home crowd,” he said.

Provided by AFP Sport

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Watch as Pakistan cricket legends Misbah ul Haq and Shahid Afridi take lap of honour at Gaddafi stadium in special ride

Sport360 staff 00:55 16/09/2017
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Misbah ul Haq takes the applause of the fans in his special ride.

As Pakistan got ready to host the ICC World XI for the final T20I of the three-match series in Lahore on Friday, there was some special guests in attendance at the jam-packed Gaddafi stadium.

Former skipper Misbah ul Haq and all-rounder Shahid Afridi graced the final match with their presence at the behest of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).

The two Pakistan legends were smartly clad in traditional attire as they came on to witness the return of international cricket to the country after years of isolation.

The two stalwarts took a lap of honour to the vociferous applause of the Pakistan cricket fans in an auto-rickshaw colourfully decorated for the historic occasion.

During the first T20I of the Independence Cup on Tuesday, the start of the World XI led by skipper Faf du Plessis had entered the stadium in similar fashion to a rapturous welcome from the Lahore crowd.

Misbah and Afridi also posed with the Pakistan squad for pictures in between the innings interval and there was no hiding in the joy of the players, most of whom had played along with the legends before their retirement.

Another legend, Younis Khan was conspicuous by his absence and it was no surprise, given his recent criticism of the PCB where he alluded that he had not been given the respect he deserved during his playing career.

In the end, the hosts pipped the visitors by 33 runs to capture the Independence Cup 2-1. Pakistan had won the toss an batted first, putting up a total of 183-4 before restricting the visitors to 150-8 in their 20 overs.

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