World XI captain Faf du Plessis chose to see the silver lining amid the dark cloud of uncertainty that hovers over international cricket in Pakistan, saying the presidential-style security afforded to the touring players made them feel like they “were in a movie”.
The South Africa captain spoke about being approached to play in the series and how he initially wrestled with the idea of playing in Pakistan, before being put at ease by the comprehensive security arrangements.
“When this whole thing came about, you do think about those sort of things, but as soon as we spoke to the people who were in control of the security, the planning, things were fine,” du Plessis said. “As a player all you want is that peace of mind and they gave it to us, so they are very confident that this will be smooth sailing. As soon as we got onto the plane those thoughts were gone; we just wanted to get here and experience what was going to be something that was going to be huge turnaround in world cricket. The last 24 hours were exciting because the excitement of last night is not something we as players get to do normally, getting on a private jet, being chauffeured away from the plane, so we felt like we were in a movie.”
Du Plessis repeatedly alluded to the end of his playing days – he even said he was unlikely to be on a tour to Pakistan with South Africa because he would have retired by then – and spoke of the importance of this tour for the legacy he’d like to leave behind. “As a captain you always look for things to try and leave your mark in what you do in a team. I thought this was a great opportunity for me when the coach [Andy Flower] phoned me and said he’d like me to captain this side. In a few years’ time when I look back at my career, it would be nice to look at ways where you had your footprint in the game of cricket whether it would be in your own team as captain. This will be certainly be something that in few years’ time when I sit down with my family. This will be something that I can say was a huge honour to be a part of. Looking back on my career it’ll be great to say that I made an impact on bringing international cricket back to Pakistan.”
Meanwhile, Andy Flower, whose brother Grant has been the Pakistan batting coach since 2014, spoke of the honour of coaching the World XI. “I feel privileged to be sitting here and addressing you as the coach of the World XI,” he said. “We are here to celebrate Pakistan’s 70th anniversary of independence, play our part in the revival of international cricket in Pakistan, and play some great cricket in front of the Pakistani people.
“We, as the World XI, would also like to offer our sympathy and condolences to all those who have lost their loved ones in terrorist acts in Pakistan. As you all know, this has been the reason for international cricket staying away from this great cricketing nation.”
As someone who has contributed to cricket even after his retirement, primarily as coach of England for five successful years, it is easy to forget Flower is also one of the greatest cricketers from Zimbabwe. He expressed his affection for a country he toured three times in five years, as well as the 1996 World Cup, and his satisfaction at being able to do a favour for a country that he said was a “great supporter” of Zimbabwe cricket.
“On a personal note, I have a strong bond with Pakistan, having toured here with the Zimbabwe cricket team in 1993, ’96 and ’98. Of course, the 1998 Test in Peshawar stands out for me because we won it and that helped us win our maiden Test series. The weather helped us just a little bit in the next two Tests in Lahore and Faisalabad as they were smogged off. But Pakistan was a great supporter of Zimbabwean cricket in those early days in the early 90’s, and I really appreciate the opportunities they helped create for me and other cricketers of Zimbabwe. My personal bonds with guys like Mushie [Mushtaq Ahmed] and Mo [Mohammad] Akram, and my brother’s experiences with the Pakistan players makes it particularly special for me to be here.”
Flower also said that his brother’s stint in Pakistan helped him in making up his mind. “He’s [Grant’s] been with Pakistan team for three years, and he’s really enjoyed his time. He loved working with international batsmen and has enjoyed working with level of talent in this country. I spoke with him after Giles Clarke had first approached me with this idea. We always communicate a lot so I hear about things at the academy [National Cricket Academy], and I was quite comfortable with the feedback that he was giving me.”
Du Plessis and Flower both said this was “more than just a cricket tour” in the way they hoped it would help Pakistan in the long run.
Source: ESPN Crickinfo