England’s World T20 winning captain, Paul Collingwood wrote in a column for ICC’s official website that World XI players were extremely excited ahead of the Independence Cup.
“Right from the start, when the lads met up in Dubai, we sensed we were doing something special and a bit out of the ordinary,” he wrote in the column.
After having a meeting with team coach and manager, Andy Flower, World XI flew to Lahore amid tight security, and the arrangements really impressed former Englishman.
“We arrived in Pakistan on Sunday night and within 10 minutes were in the hotel! It was so efficient and the extent of the security was incredible. There were two helicopters on each journey, ready to take us away if there were to be any kind of emergency, and the length of our convoy any time we went anywhere was amazing,” he added.
Pakistani fans were excited, they were seeing international stars in their backyard after ages.
“In the hotel, it was selfie after selfie and people were constantly thanking us for being there. Social media was going crazy with them just loving us being in their country,” he further wrote.
He also wrote in his column that the star-studded World XI was desperate to win the historic series, but at the same time, they were aware that they were playing for something much bigger.
“Faf du Plessis has a natural way of getting the guys together and Grant Elliott is a bit of a character and we had good fun. It was a mixture of us being relaxed, being desperate to win but also seeing the bigger picture for Pakistan.”
As per the 41-year old, he was acting like ‘kid at Christmas’ during the first training session at Lahore.
“On Monday, we had a training session and I was like a kid at Christmas. Cricket was the reason we were there and to face the local net bowlers again – really quick lads – brought everything about international cricket back for me and I loved having that preparation time with so much intensity,” he wrote.
Collingwood was disappointed when he came to know that he will not play the first game of the series, but still, he was thrilled with the atmosphere.
“I was told I wouldn’t be playing the first game and it was obviously disappointing to lose but it was a great occasion in Lahore. We were taken around the ground in rickshaws and it was an amazing welcome from all of the Pakistan fans. It was almost like they weren’t even bothered who won because they were so happy to have the matches on,” he expressed.
In the second game, Collingwood was told that he will be playing and he was super excited but was also nervous at the same time as he left international cricket way before.
“The second game was incredible. I was told in the afternoon I was playing and, to be honest, there were a lot of nerves around, because at 41, I didn’t want to make an idiot of myself,” he said. “It all came flooding back, that intensity, playing in a vital game, the atmosphere, the crowds… it was sensational. I was running around in the field like an 18-year-old and it was my first time in the outer ring for about 10 years!” he added.
Though it was disappointing for him to lose the series, but he was seeing the brighter side of the picture, which is the revival of international cricket in Pakistan.
“In the final game, we went for a powerful batting line-up and it was disappointing not to play well enough and to lose the series 2-1 but, again, it’s more about the bigger picture with all of the lads getting a game. I’d say the turn-out from the fans, as good as it was in the first match, got bigger as the week went on and the atmosphere in Lahore really was something special,” he wrote.
Collingwood coined it an unforgettable tour and believes that the intended job from the players and the PCB has been done.
“It was a week I’ll never forget. Reflecting on it now, it was a short tour – only five days – and the boys felt very safe and relaxed but it’s the start of a process.
“I think we did the job we went there for and the whole experience was nothing but positive,” he wrote in the column.
Paul Collingwood is proud of what he and his World XI teammates have done for Pakistan cricket, he is positive about the outcomes of their tour.
“As I say, it’s a small first step but hopefully we’ve made a difference and when we finally have international cricket back in Pakistan, all of us will be proud to have been part of the revival process,” he concluded.