KARACHI, Oct 19: For the skipper of the visiting International Word XI Sanath Jayasuriya, the strategy for the two Twenty20 festival matches to be played at the National Stadium Karachi on Saturday and Sunday is to play good cricket.
“Our real aim is to join in taking the first strides towards reviving international cricket in Pakistan. We are here to show our support for it to happen and now it is up to the Pakistan nation to make it a success,” said the Sri Lankan batsman at a crowded press conference held at the Sheraton hotel on Friday.
“Playing to raise funds for flood relief is also a worthy cause and the players of my international XI didn’t hesitate for a second to come and play in Pakistan, knowing all the issues you all are coping with.
“The incident that took place in Lahore in 2009 was very unfortunate. But it is time to move on. Hopefully from this point onwards Pakistan cricket will move from strength to strength,” he added.
The International World XI manager and former West Indian batsman Alvin Kallicharran said that he was not surprised to see so many people gathered to receive him and the other players at the airport when they landed in Karachi on Thursday.
“I first toured Pakistan in 1972 and my last trip here was in 1981, but I will now try to come here once every year,” he said.
“As for our team, we are here with the best of wishes for the people of Pakistan. I hear that the tickets for the game are all sold out so I can imagine the hunger for cricket and hope to be able to provide the people here what they have been starving for, for the last three years. I commend Dr Mohammad Ali Shah for arranging this and the Pakistan Cricket Board for giving us all their blessings,” he continued.
Meanwhile, former wicket-keeper Wasim Bari on behalf of the PCB hoped that the players and team officials would have a pleasant stay in Karachi. He also extended the board’s support to Sindh Minister for Sports Dr Mohammad Ali Shah.
“The PCB had also been trying for this for long so we are with Dr Shah in this. He has full cooperation of the PCB, as for the people of Pakistan cricket is not just a game but a passion,” he said.
Former cricketer Badar Rafai (Bobby) also praised the main organiser, Dr Shah for working on making his dream a reality with 103 degree temperature.
“We kept going, too, seeing him working tirelessly like this,” he said.
“There are some players here who even fought with their wives back home to come here as their wives still had security reservations so I thank them for doing the right thing. I also thank the PCB for releasing their players and giving the ground for the matches,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Shah, his voice hoarse from exhaustion, said that putting together such a big event wasn’t easy at all. He had dreamt about it one year ago but now that it is happening finally he and his staff have only had two hours of sleep during the last four days.
“But I’m glad that everything went well. Sanath Jayasuriya, I will always be ever grateful to for he said he didn’t have a problem with coming to Pakistan right away. Mahmood Malik of South Africa, too, deserves a special thank you as he is the one who got all the players together, as does Shahid Afridi, who is like a son to me.
“He is yet to say ‘no’ to me on anything. Finally, I also thank PCB chairman Zaka Ashraf, with I held two meeting in London and several more here over the organising of these matches. Mr Salman and Intikhab Alam also deserve a special mention,” he said while thanking each and every player of the two teams.
Dr Shah also hoped that now with the playing of the two festival matches the road for Pakistan cricket would clear up.
“Every country is giving this in their news that international cricket is returning to Pakistan. Seeing our fine organising and foolproof security soon other cricket playing countries especially India would want to tour Pakistan too,” he said.
South African fast bowler Andre Nel, former Pakistan wicket-keeper and captain Moin Khan, former England cricketer Geoff Miller and Pakistan all-rounder Shahid Afridi also spoke on the occasion.