LONDON: There are lots of reasons why I’m looking forward to playing in the World XI T20 tour of Lahore. Hopefully this can be a significant step in helping Pakistan host international fixtures again after eight years of playing in other countries, including their home series in the United Arab Emirates and England.
The tour has got the backing and support of all the Test playing nations, the professional players’ unions as well as the International Cricket Council, though the series is being considered as a bilateral series with the Pakistan Cricket Board as its host.
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.
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.
Despite that, I have to say I’m not surprised that they still topped the MRF Tyres ICC Test Team Rankings last year and won the ICC Champions Trophy 2017, because when it comes to cricket, they’re a hugely-talented nation.
Sometimes, you don’t know what you’re going to get in terms of performance and that’s why they can be such a dangerous opposition. They always have players with potential and talent and, while it couldn’t have helped, it doesn’t seem to have harmed their development playing in Dubai.
Getting those home games again – although there is a little way to go – would be a big thing.
I’ve had a taste of it myself because I toured there with England just after The Ashes in 2005. It’s a very passionate place and the atmosphere in the grounds can be deafening, particularly in Karachi.
I’m sure that once we get out there, the locals will want Pakistan to win, but they will see the bigger picture and they will be behind us too.
If teams are going to tour there again, it’s important that their supporters are also going to be safe to travel there.
Time is limited and the security will be high, so unfortunately we won’t be able to do the tourist things I did when I went there 12 years ago and we understand that. We’ve got ‘Head of State’ security, which I’ve been involved with in India after the Mumbai attacks and also in Bangladesh last year.
I’m just looking forward to playing three really competitive games of cricket and for it to be as normal as possible.
Andy Flower first contacted me a couple of months ago to see if I would entertain the idea of touring Pakistan. From there, you have to ask the right questions to (Director of Security Management at the England and Wales Cricket Board) Reg Dickason because security is paramount.
After that it came down to the selection process. Andy would have have asked a lot of players if they were keen and, thankfully at 41, I’ve been able to make it, which is something I’m really proud of. At my age, to be able to play three T20 internationals in front of huge crowds is something you have to be interested in.
Trying to help Pakistan is important for cricket – and no-one can pretend the money isn’t great – but, added to that, playing them in their own back yard also really floated my boat.
I’ve not played international cricket since 2011, so to play in games with full international status against the full Pakistan side is very, very exciting and it’s great to be involved.
I heard Andy has said that there is a deeper meaning to the tour and I’m sure the reason why he is a key figure in this is that he can see a bigger message for world cricket.
For us, as players, we’re part of it too and we’re the people who want to go out there and perform. I’m sure Andy will see this as a huge step for cricket in Pakistan, particularly with his brother Grant having worked as their batting coach.
We’ll have three great matches and hopefully we will have helped in a small way.