Pakistanis hail international World XI cricket series

New series marks return of foreign sportsmen after matches in Pakistan stopped after 2009 deadly attack in Lahore.

    Pakistanis celebrated the return of international cricket at home with the arrival of players from seven countries for a tournament, following a long pause over security concerns.

    The World XI squad players from England, Australia, West Indies, South Africa, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and New Zealand arrived in Lahore early on Monday amid tight security to play a three-match Twenty20 series against Pakistan.

    Pakistan, which organised the series in a bid to revive international cricket at home, has only hosted Zimbabwe for a short, limited-overs series in 2015.

    READ MORE: Can cricket cool India-Pakistan political hostility?

    The years-long pause began in 2009, when gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan national cricket team bus in Lahore, wounding several of the players and killing six policemen and a driver.

    "This series could not have been better timed," said Pakistani former test captain and fast bowler Waqar Younis. "Pakistan produced a superb performance by winning the ICC Champions Trophy, and the players deserve the opportunity to display their class at home venues."

    Ramiz Raja, another former Pakistan test cricketer and now television commentator, also celebrated the return of international cricket at home.

    "These might be baby steps before some giant steps are taken. For now, let's back this to the hilt," he said.

    Pakistani workers transport a billboard of International World XI cricketer Tamim Iqbal outside the Gaddafi Cricket Stadium in Lahore [Aamir Qureshi/AFP]

    Top officials of the Pakistan Cricket Board, including its chairman Najam Sethi, welcomed the players at the airport.

    "It's great to be here," said Andy Flower, the World XI coach and former Zimbabwe captain. "We are looking forward to seeing a lot of you watching the great cricket that we are going to put on show and we had a warm welcome already."

    Both the federal and Punjab provincial governments have deployed thousands of security officials to guard the teams on the routes from their hotel to the Gaddafi Stadium, which will host the matches on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.

    "I am not worried about these security checkpoints, I am more excited that on Tuesday doors of international cricket will be opened in Pakistan," said Mohammad Abdullah, a college student.

    SOURCE: News agencies


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