LAHORE – Cricket takes centre stage when Pakistan take on the World XI at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore in the first Twenty20 International on Tuesday.
According to a press release issued by the ICC, the build-up to the three-match series, with the second and third games on Wednesday and Friday, also in Lahore, has been all about the security arrangements in the backdrop of reviving international cricket in the country. Not one person has spoken about which team will win the series or which are the players to watch out for.
But once both teams are settled, the focus will have shifted to cricket with Pakistan, the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 winner, taking on some of the world’s best. It would have a truly global event had there been even a single player from India, but as Andy Flower, the World XI coach, rightly reasoned, busy schedules and the political situation didn’t allow that to happen.
Under Sarfraz Ahmed, Pakistan has shown the right kind of energy level and passion. The way it upset all calculations in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 – coming back from defeat against India in the opening game to win the final against the same opposition – was a rare occurrence.
Another uncommon sight: A fully-fit Pakistan team. Mickey Arthur, the head coach, with the help of his support staff, has changed the fitness culture of the team. There have been strict rules, something which led to Umar Akmal being sent home from the Champions Trophy squad.
Sarfraz accepted that the occasion was overwhelming for the players, but they are now thinking of building on the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 success. “This is our first event after the Champions Trophy so we are ready for it. We have prepared well and will do our best to win the series. The opponents are formidable with some good Twenty20 players so the task is tough,” he said.