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Du Plessis to lead World XI team in Pakistan

(Eds: Updating with more inputs and changing dateline)

Karachi, Aug 24 (PTI) South African captain Faf De Plessis will lead a World Eleven side that will play three matches in Lahore next month.

Besides du Plessis, the team comprises big names like Hashim Amla, also of South Africa, former captains like Paul Collingwood of England, George Bailey of Australia and Darren Sammy of the West Indies.

The confirmation of the World Eleven tour was announced by the International Cricket Council in a press release, saying it had played a vital role in arranging the three-match series which the PCB is hoping will pave the way for more international teams to visit Pakistan.

No top Test team has visited Pakistan since March 2009 when militants attacked the Sri Lankan team in Lahore.

Since then only Zimbabwe visited Lahore in May 2015 to play a short limited over series but that was not supported by the ICC which did not send any of its umpires or match referees to supervise the series.

"This tour is different as the ICC has supported us all the way and its security delegation will be coming to Lahore in first week of September to inspect the security arrangements and plans," PCB chief Najam Sethi said.

He said if the World Eleven tour went off successfully, Pakistan would also be hosting Sri Lanka and West Indies this year for T20 matches in Lahore.

The World Eleven side will play three T20 games on September 12, 13 and 15 in Lahore after holding a two-day camp in Dubai.

Former Zimbabwe captain and ex-England coach Andy Flower will be the coach of the World Eleven side, which will arrive in Lahore on September 11.

Giles Clarke, the ICC Director, who has served as the Chairman of the Pakistan Task Team since 2009, was optimistic that the series will be the first step towards international cricket returning safely to Pakistan with more T20 International matches against Sri Lanka and the Windies penciled in for later in the year.

"I am delighted that Pakistan will be hosting a high- profile series, which features several top international cricketers from a number of ICC Members.

"This 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," said Clarke.

"Pakistan has been an important member of the ICC and the cricket community has felt its pain. As part of its duty of care, the cricket community has always ensured that the sport is not affected due to no fault of the PCB, when it has continued to play its away series off-shore."

The Pakistan Task Team, which was formed in June 2009 and also included ICC Chief Executive David Richardson (then ICC General Manager ? Cricket), made 63 recommendations in June 2011 about the organisation of the game in the country.

Richardson, who has been a regular visitor to Pakistan, said: "The ICC wants to see regular international cricket being played safely in all its Member countries and the World XI playing Pakistan in Lahore next month is a step towards that for the PCB.

"The PCB's plans for the tour will include comprehensive security arrangements for the safety and security of the players, officials, media and spectators. As such, the ICC is fully supportive of these games. That said, all the stakeholders will remain vigilant and re-evaluate the situation if required," said Richardson.

"We are optimistic that this will be the next step in a steady and safe return of international cricket to Pakistan."

Plessis in a statement issued by the PCB said that he was honoured to have been appointed as captain of such a diverse, attractive and well-balanced side.

"Like most of the players, I look forward to my maiden tour to Lahore and play my part in the safe and gradual resumption of international cricket in Pakistan," said du Plessis.

"All the members of the squad have complete faith and trust in the assessment and judgement of the security experts, who have assured us that there will be no comprise on the safety and security of all those involved in the series.

As professionals, we are getting paid to play in the series, but the bottom-line is that if we did not 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."

Pakistan's former captains Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Ramiz Raja, Rashid Latif, Muhammad Yousuf and players said the coming of the World Eleven was a big step forward for Pakistan cricket.

"It will allow the PCB and Pakistani government and people to show the world that international cricket can be played in the country without any fear," Waqar said.

World XI Squad: Faf du Plessis (captain; South Africa), Hashim Amla (South Africa), Samuel Badree (West Indies), George Bailey (Australia), Paul Collingwood (England}, Ben Cutting (Australia), Grant Elliott (New Zealand), Tamim Iqbal (Bangladesh), David Miller (South Africa), Morne Morkel (South Africa}, Tim Paine (wk; Australia), Thisara Perera (Sri Lanka), Imran Tahir (South Africa) and Darren Sammy (West Indies)

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