LAHORE: The International Cricket Council’s (ICC) World XI players arrived at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport amid tight security early Monday morning, a day before the much-anticipated three-match T20 series against Pakistan kicks off at Gaddafi Stadium.
The star-studded team, led by South Africa’s Faf du Plessis, was welcomed by Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Najam Sethi at the airport, before being transported to its hotel at Mall Road.
West Indies’ Samuel Badree is expected to join the team in Lahore later today.
Upon arrival, Andy Flower — the coach of World XI — said he was looking forward to a good series against Pakistan.
“It’s great to be here; we’re looking forward to seeing a lot of you watching the great cricket we put on the show,” said Flower.
“We’ve had a warm welcome. Thank you very much,” he added.
The World XI is scheduled to play three T20 matches of the Independence Cup in Lahore on September 12, 13, and 15, in a historic series which sees international cricket return to the country after a drought of eight years, barring a brief tour by Zimbabwe in 2015.
The PCB has high hopes that the series will close that dark chapter for good — and allow a new generation of players to experience the thrill of playing before a home crowd for the first time.
Just five members of the current squad have done that before — skipper Sarfraz Ahmed, Shoaib Malik, Imad Wasim, Sohail Khan and Ahmed Shehzad.
Some 8,000 police and paramilitary forces will guard teams as they travel back and forth from Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium.
Roads and shops will be closed around the 27,000-capacity venue, while spectators will have to pass through multiple security checkpoints.
The World XI features du Plessis’ countrymen Hashim Amla and David Miller, plus Bangladesh’s Tamim Iqbal, New Zealand’s Grant Elliott, England’s Paul Collingwood and Australia’s George Bailey in a strong batting line-up.
A potent bowling attack comprises South Africa’s Morne Morkel and Imran Tahir, with Australian Ben Cutting and West Indies’ Samuel Badree and Darren Sammy.
The ICC has accorded international status on the matches. Although teams’ rankings will not be affected, the series will provide an opportunity to the players to boost their individual rankings.