World XI series in Pakistan confirmed
What's the story?
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has confirmed a three-match T20I series in Lahore between the Pakistan cricket team and a World XI comprising of international cricketers from top Test-playing countries.
'Presidential level security' arrangement has been proposed for the week-long tour as the XI, coached by former England coach Andy Flower, would fly to Lahore after undergoing a week-long preparatory camp in Dubai.
The first T20I is scheduled for September 10.
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Former PCB chairman Shahryar Khan had been in talks with ICC as well as the ECB president Giles Clarke, who is also the chairman of the ICC's Pakistan Task Force, for the finalization of this tour.
The World XI was picked by the ECB director, Flower, who has been working closely with the ICC as well as the PCB to ensure a level of security that is deemed satisfactory by the Federation of International Cricketers' Association (FICA), as revealed by the incumbent PCB chairman Najam Sethi.
All expenses of the tour would be borne by the PCB.
International cricket had come to a standstill in Pakistan after gunmen attacked a bus carrying Sri Lanka cricketers to the Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore in March 2009. Several international teams had refused to tour the country thereafter, and consequently, Pakistan had to shift their base to the UAE and have been playing all their home cricket matches there for the past eight years.
In 2015, Zimbabwe had toured Pakistan for a short limited-overs series but it was marred by a bomb blast merely 800 metres from the Gaddafi Stadium during the second ODI. Two people were killed.
However, in March this year, PCB successfully hosted the final of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in Lahore that featured several international cricketers including former Windies captain Darren Sammy.
The World XI series is supposed to pave the way for other international teams to tour Pakistan, the signs of which were reported earlier in the month when Pakistan invited Sri Lanka for a one-off T20I in September.
Windies are also likely to tour Pakistan in November for a limited-overs expedition.
PCB has been fighting tooth-and-nail to bring cricket back to its homeland, but some way or the other, those plans have failed to materialize in a manner the board would have liked to.
In that regard, this World XI tour, if organized successfully may go a long way in the board's bid to win back the trust of the touring parties and convince them that Pakistan is safe for international cricket.
The commercial and organizational success of this tournament may also help shape the conscience of the cricketers and in turn of the FICA, which plays a major role in cordoning off security-related issues on international tours.