Former England captain Paul Collingwood believes the World XI team visit to Pakistan will generate an extraordinary response from the country’s crowds.
Collingwood is a part of the 14-man squad led by South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis, which will play three Twenty20 International matches against the home team at Lahore in an attempt to help bring back international cricket to the terror-hit nation.
The World XI side contains players from seven Test playing nations and will face Pakistan for the ‘Independence Cup’ on September 12, 13 and 15.
The matches are aimed at ending Pakistan’s international isolation, triggered after militants attacked the visiting Sri Lankan team’s bus in Lahore in 2009.
“Hopefully this can be a significant step in helping Pakistan host international fixtures again after eight years of playing in other countries,” wrote Collingwood in his blog for the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) website icc-cricket.com.
Collingwood, who led the Three Lions to glory in the 2010 ICC World T20, expressed his empathy with Pakistan’s cricketers and believed the World XI visit will be a major boost for their morale.
“You can only imagine how demoralising it must have been for Pakistan’s players during the last few years and it’s an opportunity to show and prove that they can hold big fixtures in their own country once again,” wrote the 41-year-old, who regularly features in County cricket for Durham.
“Playing away from their home would have done nothing to help them improve their game in the long-term and it must have been so frustrating.”
Other players for the World XI include David Miller (South Africa), Grant Elliott (New Zealand), Samuel Badree (West Indies), Ben Cutting (Australia), Morne Morkel (South Africa), Tim Paine (Australia), Thisara Perera (Sri Lanka), Imran Tahir (South Africa).
Former Zimbabwe captain and ex-England coach Andy Flower will coach the side, which is set to arrive in Lahore on September 11 after attending a two-day camp in Dubai, said the PCB.
Since the suspension of international cricket, Pakistan have been forced to play all their home series in the neutral venues of the United Arab Emirates.
But security has improved in recent years, giving fans hope that international cricket could finally return, a massive boost in a country where the game is far and away its most popular sport.
“Pakistan a very passionate place and the atmosphere in the grounds can be deafening,” wrote Collingwood.