Mon, Sep 11, 2017 - Page 11 News List

Pakistan ready for return of international cricket

AP, LAHORE, Pakistan

Pakistan is preparing to show the cricketing world that it is safe to play international matches in the country by staging a three-match Twenty20 international series against a World XI in Lahore next week.

Only Zimbabwe has toured Pakistan — for a short limited-overs series two years ago — since terrorists attacked a Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in 2009.

The World XI tour is a major breakthrough for the Pakistan Cricket Board, which had been working to attract international cricket to the country.

Since 2009 Pakistan has played most of its “home” matches in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and also staged two editions of its premier domestic T20 tournament — the Pakistan Super League — in the UAE.

The successful hosting of the Pakistan Super League final at Lahore earlier this year gave the Pakistan Cricket Board enough confidence to schedule a T20 series against the World XI in collaboration with the International Cricket Council.

Led by South Africa’s Faf du Plessis, the star-studded World XI includes the West Indies’ World Twenty20-winning captain Darren Sammy, who also competed in the Pakistan Super League final for Peshawar Zalmi, New Zealand’s Grant Elliott, Australia’s Tim Paine, England’s Paul Collingwood, Bangladesh’s Tamim Iqbal and Sri Lanka’s Thisara Perera.

“These might be baby steps before some giant steps are taken. For now, let’s back this to the hilt,” former Pakistan Test cricketer Ramiz Raja said.

“Everyone is here and they realize that they are part of a greater cause and they have accepted they are part of something more important than just themselves,” Sammy added on Saturday in Dubai.

“It is important that the passionate Pakistan fans get to experience international cricket in their country,” Sammy said.

The Pakistan Cricket Board has high hopes for the series. It has already scheduled a Twenty20 international against Sri Lanka next month, subject to security clearance, and a three-match T20 series against the West Indies in November is also in the pipeline.

Both the Pakistani and Punjab Provincial government’s have promised foolproof security for the World XI.

Several thousand security officials are expected to be deployed over the next five days and spectators have to stand in long lines at several security checkpoints before entering the Gaddafi Stadium.

“I am not worried about these security checkpoints, I am more excited that on Tuesday doors of international cricket will be opened in Pakistan,” college student Mohammad Abdullah said.

Hundreds of fans were turned away yesterday after the cheapest US$5 tickets had sold out, leaving only the premium US$60 and US$80 seats still available for the three games.

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