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World XI series a big step forward for Pakistan cricket: PCB chief

LAHORE: Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Najam Sethi said on Monday that the World XI tour of Pakistan was a big step forward for Pakistan cricket. Addressing a press conference, along with International Cricket Council (ICC) Task Force on Pakistan chairman Giles Clarke, Sethi said: “For Pakistan, it’s a big day. If this didn’t happen, I don’t know how many more years we would still have to wait for cricket to return. I want to start by thanking all those people who made this possible for international cricket to come back to Pakistan. Top of my list is my friend and colleague Mr Clarke. He has gone out of his way to organise this series and he is working at it for over a year now. Giles has been a great friend and the amount of conviction he has in the return of international cricket to Pakistan is unsurpassed.”

Clarke congratulated the Pakistani people over the revival of cricket in the country, saying, “It is not just cricket, but much much more than that.” Clarke also went on to give credit to Sethi, ICC’s chief executive officer Dave Richardson, PCB’s chief operating officer Subhan Ahmed and former Pakistan opener Ramiz Raja for making this series possible. “Credit must be given to Sethi, Richardson, Subhan and Ramiz for making this possible,” he said. “But Sethi deserves a lot of credit, as it all started back with the Pakistan Super League final.” Sethi also credited Punjab government and law enforcement agencies for making the dream of Independence Cup a reality. “I want to thank Punjab government, army and other law enforcement agencies for making it possible. It is a monumental achievement and credit should be given to them,” he added.

The World XI squad, comprising 13 players from seven top cricket-playing nations, will play three Twenty20 internationals from Tuesday (today). Since the attack on the Sri Lanka team in 2009, Pakistan has been deprived of regular international cricket in the country. In the last few years, the PCB had made several attempts to convince teams to tour Pakistan, but was only able to convince Zimbabwe, Kenya and Afghanistan to tour. A major breakthrough came with the hosting of the PSL final earlier this year in Lahore, an event that included international players like Darren Sammy, Chris Jordan and Dawid Malan. The World XI tour was subsequently planned to showcase another attempt as a part of confidence building and to change the ‘negative’ perception about Pakistan. The ICC, however, had distanced itself from the Zimbabwe series in 2015, not even sending its own officials, but has now thrown its weight behind the World XI trip by hiring independent experts to oversee the security arrangements.

“A lot of courage was needed on other side to put it all together,” Sethi said. “We are very very happy to host the World XI and we know this is a small step in many ways but a huge leap for Pakistan. In a sense that if the PSL final in Lahore actually opened the gates to the World XI. The players, of course, you have seen in pictures are relaxed, each one of them knows that this trip is not just about cricket. I am grateful to them for this trip, and we look forward to great performance on the field.”

Clarke echoed Sethi’s comments and outlined how his team prepared for World XI’s visit. “We met in January when we had a short conference on how to make this possible,” Clarke said. “We were looking to take small steps on a long journey, and those steps have been taken by Pakistani people and Pakistani government on a daily basis, more than by anyone else apart from the team that I’ve brought with me, which I have greatest admiration for. After I came here in January, we agreed that we should invest in training and preparation. We needed to behave as if there are going to be FTP tours in Pakistan. We have half the nations’ players registered as members of FICA. So we needed to ensure that FICA was happy. For that to happen, we had to have a structure that was approved by FICA and the other countries. So I was very pleased that FICA sent their representatives to watch the PSL final which was a great achievement. The ICC have paid for and invested a significant sum of money in security and training of Pakistani security agencies. In the end, we need Pakistani companies to provide those services, and that’s what’s going to happen in future. We’re building a serious house, and we’re building it with bricks, not straw,” Clarke maintained.

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