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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

Darren Sammy says players headed for Pakistan 'part of history and a greater purpose'

West Indian is in Dubai preparing with rest of the World XI to play three T20s in Lahore as international cricket gets set to return to the country for first time since 2009

West Indies cricketer Darren Sammy, right, and Ben Cutting, of Australia, are in Dubai preparing for a World XI to take on Pakistan in Lahore next week. Pawan Singh / The National
West Indies cricketer Darren Sammy, right, and Ben Cutting, of Australia, are in Dubai preparing for a World XI to take on Pakistan in Lahore next week. Pawan Singh / The National

Darren Sammy says the players involved in the World XI series in Pakistan next week are aware they are “part of something more important than just themselves”.

But the West Indian is intent on being on the winning side in Lahore for the second time this year, as he says the invitational touring side are “not going to take the cricket lightly”.

The group of international players that will make up the World XI have assembled in Dubai for practice, ahead of three T20 internationals at the Gaddafi Stadium on September 12, 13 and 15.

They were issued their blue team shirts and training kit at the team hotel on Saturday, where they were also given a lengthy briefing about security.

The series of T20Is will be the most high-profile matches to be staged in Pakistan since Sammy’s Peshawar Zalmi won the Pakistan Super League final there in March.

Now, as was the case then, the Pakistan Cricket Board [PCB] have promised “presidential-level” security to the visitors, who are reportedly due to earn around US$100,000 (Dh367,455) per man for playing.

The series is the latest step towards attempting to bring major international cricket back to Pakistan, for the first time since the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan team bus.

The last of three T20Is between Pakistan and Sri Lanka is also scheduled to be played in Lahore on October 28, at the conclusion of a series that will otherwise be staged in the UAE.

“The players have accepted they are part of something more important than just themselves,” said Sammy, who was man of the match at the PSL final.

“For me, it is a place where I have a great connection. Going back there, helping cricket get back to Pakistan, we are part of history and a greater purpose. To help the fans in Pakistan see cricket again is a wonderful thing.”

Sammy said the professional pride of his team, as well as the expertise of Andy Flower, the coach, and Faf du Plessis, the captain, will ensure the touring side will be a challenge for Pakistan on the field.

“I know it’s for a bigger cause, but the cricket is always the most important thing,” Sammy said.

“As a professional, you take pride in what you do. That in itself brings out the competitive edge.

“For those who like the stats side of things, it goes on the stats as well.

“As much as we will play it in the true spirit, I know that Andy and Faf will ensure we are very competitive. That is what the fans are paying to come and watch.”

While Sammy has recent experience of playing in Pakistan, few of his new teammates know exactly what to expect.

For example, George Bailey, Tom Paine and Ben Cutting, the trio of Australians in the World XI squad, will be among the first players from their country to tour Pakistan in nearly 20 years.

“I ran in to [former Australia fast bowler] Jason Gillespie in the car park about a week ago, he said ‘Well done’,” Cutting said.

“I asked him what he knew about Lahore, and he said, ‘You are really going to enjoy it’. He spent some time there, so that was refreshing and good to hear.

“I haven’t played a lot of international cricket in the past couple of years, let alone at all. So to play under the banner of a World XI against a team like Pakistan, in Pakistan, is pretty exciting.

“I’m not going to take it too seriously. I’m going to enjoy myself, and hopefully that pays off in performances.”