Andy Flower believes World XI tour has a deeper meaning to it
What’s the story?
Andy Flower, who is heading to Pakistan next month as the coach of the World XI side, revealed how he managed to get such a diverse and robust 14-man squad together for the tour. He believes that the tour has a ‘deeper meaning’ to it and that everyone will be surprised by the reception they get in Pakistan.
Flower told ESPNcricinfo, "Initially I had to look at who was busy during this period of the year. And initially, we didn't settle on the dates specifically so it was a little difficult working out exactly who was going to be physically available. Then I started having some phone conversations with players and agents."
"In general the response was very positive. Obviously, these are professional cricketers we are dealing with and this is part of their profession but there's a deeper meaning to this tour and the players will really embrace the spirit with which the Independence Cup will be played. And I also believe they will be surprised and pleased by the reception they get from the Pakistani people," he added.
In case you didn’t know…
In order to revive international cricket in Pakistan after almost an 8-year hiatus (barring a Zimbabwe series), a World XI tour has been planned in the month of September. Some big names including Hashim Amla, Paul Collingwood, Tamim Iqbal among others, will feature in the World XI side led by South African captain Faf du Plessis.
The heart of the matter
Flower did not hesitate even the slightest bit in wanting to get involved. While part of it stems from being attuned to the bigger picture beyond cricket, it is also because of his connection with Pakistan. The war-torn country has figured prominently throughout his rich career. He toured Pakistan thrice as a player, including the 1996 World Cup.
The Zimbabwean also enjoyed a stint with Peshawar Zalmi in the first season of the Pakistan Super League (PSL). Moreover, his brother Grant is the batting coach of Pakistan now for three years.
"I speak regularly with him of course. But I've also got some other strong connections. I coached England with Mushtaq Ahmed for a few years. And we became strong friends. And I also played cricket with Mohammad Akram and coached with him at Peshawar Zalmi. So I had very fond memories of Pakistan and some really good relationships with people from the country," Flower said.
Another thing that drove Flower was that belief that there is a wider world outside of cricket. This was the same thing that led to his famous political protest at the 2003 World Cup alongside Henry Olonga, bemoaning the "death of democracy" in Zimbabwe.
"I think we are all responsible for doing our best for the game," Flower said, "And if we are lucky enough to be given opportunities where we can make a positive contribution to - it could be your club, school, a representative team, your national team or if you're really lucky you might be given opportunities to positively affect the world game in some way. We all have our little parts to play. So I'm thankful for the opportunity to come to Pakistan with this team."
"I think everybody involved in the Independence Cup will realise there are bigger issues at stake than winning at cricket. However, I think when these excellent players get together as a team, their competitive juices will undoubtedly flow and they will come together and be doing everything in their power to win those games, I'm pretty certain about that.
"But I think it will actually be a lovely experience to be part of something that will be bigger than just winning cricket matches. So yes they will be competitive. The people that come will be richly entertained and that is really important. But it is nice to be part of something bigger than this," he concluded.
The World XI side will play a three-match T20 series against Pakistan in Lahore next month. After that, hopefully, big-time international cricket will resume in the country.
Much of the credit for assimilating the power-packed squad goes to Flower. It is these established names that make the squad more than just an invitational XI and brings more significance. If the tour goes off without any incident, Pakistani fans might come to remember Flower indelibly as the man who brought back international cricket to the country.