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World XI squad arrives in Lahore amid tight security

LAHORE: A World XI squad comprising of 13 players from seven top cricket-playing nations landed in Lahore early Monday amid massive security, with Pakistan hoping the tour will end years of international isolation. The visitors were received by Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Najam Sethi and other officials of the board. Pakistan has not hosted top-level international cricket – barring five limited over matches against minnows Zimbabwe in 2015 since the Sri Lankan team bus was attacked by terrorists in March 2009, killing eight people and injuring seven players and staff. The World XI, which will play three T20Is from Tuesday, arrived around 2:00 AM local time with air surveillance and dozens of police vans in attendance as the team was whisked to their hotel. Both the hotel and stadium will be cordoned off with 9,000 police and paramilitary staff deployed during the next five days. The World XI is led by South African skipper Faf du Plessis and coached by former Zimbabwe batsman and ex-England coach Andy Flower. Malik Mohammad Khan, a spokesperson for the Punjab government, said authorities were providing “foolproof security for the World XI with a big contingent of security officials deployed”. Parts of the city near the stadium will be cordoned off, with shops and restaurants around the venue to be shut for the duration of the series while spectators will have to pass through multiple security checkpoints.

Since the 2009 attack, Pakistan have been forced to play most of their “home” games in the United Arab Emirates – with the Pakistan Cricket Board complaining they have incurred losses of around $120 million. But security has dramatically improved across Pakistan in the last two years, signalling hopes for the slow revival of international sport in the country.

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