Lahore : A host of former Pakistan greats have welcomed the return of top-class cricket to the country with a three-match Twenty20 International series against a World XI to be played under lights at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on 12, 13 and 15 September.
The World XI side, which has been selected and is being managed by former Zimbabwe player Andy Flower, will be led by South Africa captain Faf du Plessis and will comprise players from seven Test playing countries.
The Pakistan Cricket Board is hopeful of more international fixtures at home following this series, which is an opportunity to show the world that the country is safe for cricket and to also showcase the love people here have for the game.
Former Pakistan captains Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Shahid Afridi, Moin Khan and Ramiz Raja have all welcomed the upcoming series.
Former captain and pace great Wasim Akram: “It is heartening to see international cricket return to the country and I’m sure millions of fans are waiting for this new beginning. The experience of playing in front of home crowds is a different one altogether and I’m sure the Pakistan players will be that much more motivated to come up with memorable performances.
“I’ve always believed that youngsters are inspired to pursue the game seriously when they see their heroes in action from close quarters. I’m sure that will be true of this series too, when they will get to watch Pakistan players fight it out against players from the world over.
“I’m very glad to see so many players agree to tour Pakistan for this series. I’m sure these matches will go a long way in portraying a positive picture of the country. The touring players will get to experience the hospitality and love for the game here first hand and that could hopefully lead to more tours.”
Former captain and coach Waqar Younis: “This home series against a World XI could not have been better timed. Pakistan produced a superb performance just a few months ago by winning the ICC Champions Trophy and the players deserve the opportunity to display their class at home venues.
“I hope this series will be successful and encourage more international teams to come touring. Everyone knows that the people of Pakistan have huge passion for the game and this series creates the opportunity for them to not only watch live cricket action but also look forward to more series.”
“The paucity of cricket over this long period would have increased the appetite of fans across the country and we could hopefully see international cricket in other cities too.”
Former Pakistan captain and chairman of selectors Inzamam-ul-Haq: “Despite the PCB’s best efforts, cricket had been lagging as other international athletes have participated in various international events in Pakistan in the past few months. But by confirming the World XI’s tour to Lahore, cricket can proudly say that it supports one of its oldest Members, whose contribution to the game are second to none.
“As all eyes will be focused on the series, this poses a golden opportunity for Pakistan to once again show that it is a peace-loving and cricket-crazy nation, which has been deprived of watching international cricket stars for no fault of theirs. Therefore, we need to endeavour to support the series in any way we can as I am sure the PCB will welcome even the smallest contribution because it will lead to bigger accomplishments.
“My generation of cricketers was able to make a name for itself because we played regularly at home, which helped us understand and realise what it means to the public. This realisation helped us mature and enhance our efforts so that we could come up to our fans expectations. I think the current and future generation of cricketers deserve the same as this is one of the ways to the zenith of glory.”
Former captain and World Cup winner Moin Khan: “World cricket needs a strong Pakistan and while I think enough was not done by the international cricket community in the past, I am glad that finally a side comprising top international cricketers is coming to Pakistan.
“It is a massive achievement for the PCB and let us also not forget the touring cricketers who have also realised their duty towards a leading cricket playing nation.
“There has been some talk about the money the players will be getting. I think they deserve every penny because they are professional cricketers and cricket is their livelihood. But at the same time, people must also realise that they would not have accepted any money if they had believed that it was not safe to travel to Lahore.
“I have absolutely no doubts that this series will open the gates for not only domestic international series, but also ICC events and meetings. This, in turn, will attract more tourism and sponsorship that will boost the economy of the country.”
Former captain and renowned all-rounder Shahid Afridi:
“I see it as a big success for Pakistan as it has been able to convince these international star cricketers that it is safe to play cricket in Pakistan. We had to break the ice somehow and I think we have been able to do it through the confirmation of the three-match T20I series in Lahore.
“I think we all owe a big thanks to these international cricketers, the global cricket community, the ICC and the PCB for taking this positive step.
“Collectively, we now need to get behind this series, welcome the World XI and ensure the success of the series so that the PCB can forcefully plead its case at the international forum for regular domestic international series, which, in turn, will help the sport in general and Pakistan cricket in particular.”
Former captain and renowned commentator Ramiz Raja: “It is a momentous occasion that needs to be applauded, many thanks to the players who are making the trip and thank you to the PCB for keeping its promise.
This was on the cards but things had to be taken care of to ensure that everyone was on the same page. This is great news for Pakistani fans and cricket fraternity because the international cricket fraternity has backed Pakistan and are behind this effort. I am sure that we will see the Gaddafi Stadium packed for all three games.
We all should be grateful to the players and the ICC for ensuring that the series takes place. These might be baby steps before some giant steps are taken. For now, let’s back this to the hilt, this is great news for all cricket fans as we are now set in the right direction.”