'If no one felt safe, no one would be going' - Grant Elliott
Former New Zealand allrounder Grant Elliott has provided resounding approval to the security measures for the World XI series in Lahore, saying "if no one felt safe, no one would be going". Elliott is the only player from New Zealand in the visiting squad.
A team of overseas players, comprising several first-choice picks in Hashim Amla, Tamim Iqbal, Morne Morkel, Samuel Badree, Imran Tahir, and led by Faf du Plessis, will play three T20 internationals on September 12, 13 and 15 as part of an effort to bring international cricket back to Pakistan. To ensure that the series goes on without a hitch, the PCB has promised presidential-level security to the visitors.
"We get the reports from all the relevant agencies such as FICA (Federation of International Cricket Associations) and independent security firms," Elliott told the New Zealand Herald. "You assess the risks involved and make a decision as a family. Of course the players are getting paid but, if no one felt safe, no one would be going.
"These are small steps in returning cricket to Pakistan on a more permanent basis. It's sad for them that they never play at home. They always talk about it with such passion. I think we can expect enthusiastic crowds. Wherever you go there are risks, and being away from home for long periods is always tough on the family."
The World XI series is being conducted on the back of a successful staging of the Pakistan Super League final at the Gaddafi Stadium in March. Elliott had been part of that tournament - his team Lahore Qalandars did not make it to the final - and he was looking forward to meeting up with some of his colleagues.
"I got to know a few people in Pakistani cricket when I performed pretty well in those tournaments," he said. "I'm also excited about some opportunities which might open up with the Lahore owners. They've just bought the Durban Qalandars franchise in South Africa, and I will be their assistant coach in November-December [for the inaugural Global League].
"That doesn't mean my playing days are over. I'm still keen to play, and have another year with the Birmingham Bears. I've just finished a successful tournament there."
Elliott retired from international cricket in March 2017, signing a Kolpak deal to play in England's T20 Blast; he played the tournament final last week. "The shorter format is something I'm still passionate about, so I may as well keep doing it," he said. "I thrived with the captaincy of the Bears towards the end. I enjoy helping younger guys achieve the pathways they want."
Should Elliot make the playing XI on Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday, he will be the first New Zealander to play cricket in Pakistan since December 2003.
World XI squad: Faf du Plessis (capt), Hashim Amla, Samuel Badree, George Bailey, Paul Collingwood, Ben Cutting, Grant Elliott, Tamim Iqbal, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Tim Paine, Thisara Perera, Imran Tahir, Darren Sammy