LAHORE: Faf du Plessis said here on Monday that the World XI tour to Pakistan “is something much bigger than the game itself”.
Speaking at a news conference here at a hotel, the World XI captain said it was a huge honour to be in Pakistan. “It’s fair to say that this will be the first time when we actually come into play cricket for something which is much bigger than the game itself. We look forward to what will be a great week of cricket,” the South African said.
The World XI squad, led by du Plessis, reached Lahore in the wee hours of Monday to play the three-match Independence Cup Twenty20 series against Pakistan. The first game will be played on Tuesday (today, start time 7:00pm).
“We are big supporters of this whole cause. It’s not every day you get an opportunity to play in something that is much more than just about yourself and your own team or your own country,” the South African batsman said.
Du Plessis, who leads the South African Test and Twenty20 team, and is all set to take over the ODI captaincy as well, said: “As a captain you always look for things to try and leave your mark in what you do in a team,” he said. “I thought this was a great opportunity for me.
“In a few years’ time when I look back at my career, it would be nice to look at ways where you had your footprints in the game of cricket,” he added. Asked about the possibility of a tour by his national team to Pakistan, the right-handed batsman said it was a personal decision for players to come over and play cricket in Pakistan. “When it comes to playing for South Africa, that’s not the decision that I make. That’s the decision that powers may be, the boards, will make,” he said.
Du Plessis said once they were assured that everything would go on smoothly, they agreed to tour Pakistan. “As soon as we spoke to the people who were in control of the security . . . as a player all you want was peace of mind and they gave it to us. 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 a huge turnaround in world cricket,” du Plessis said. “The last 24 hours have been exciting because the excitement of last night is not something we as players have normally. We felt like we were in a movie,” he added.
He said it was a “huge honour” to be playing the highest-profile event in cricket-mad Pakistan since a militant attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009.Pakistan has not hosted top-level international cricket — barring five limited-over matches against minnows Zimbabwe in 2015 — since that attack, which killed eight people and injured seven players and staff.
Officials have said there will be “foolproof” security for the three-match Twenty20 series starting on Tuesday in Lahore.Both the hotel and the stadium will be cordoned off, with 9,000 police and paramilitary staff deployed.
Shops and restaurants around the venue will be shut, while spectators will have to pass through multiple security checkpoints. The security situation in Pakistan has dramatically improved in the last two years.