Ab de Villiers has agreed to play to Pakistan Super League games in Lahore. The confirmation also comes as a shot in the arm for the Pakistan Cricket Board to re-establish international cricket in the country.
In a big boost to return of international cricket to Pakistan, AB de Villiers has declared that he is ready to play the Pakistan Super League matches this season in Pakistan. The former South Africa captain will play two matches in Lahore for Lahore Qalandars in the upcoming PSL season on March 9 and 10. De Villiers, who said he had “a role to play in helping international cricket return to Pakistan”, will be one of the most high-profile cricketers to play in the country since the terror attack in Lahore in March 2009.
De Villiers, who retired from international cricket at the end of IPL 2018, was picked by Lahore Qalandars in the draft in November and was originally signed on to play only seven of the side’s eight league matches in the UAE leg of the tournament. However, he confirmed on Monday that he would be available for the side’s final two league matches – against Islamabad United and Multan Sultans – in Lahore, too, before his return home. De Villiers stated he was available only for the group stage, due to family commitments.
“I am fully aware that cricket is like a second religion in Pakistan,” he said. “I still remember the support and appreciation we received in 2007. Furthermore, I feel I have a role to play in helping international cricket return to Pakistan. These have been some of the motivating factors for me to return to Lahore.
“I sympathise with the people of Pakistan because they have been cricket-starved for no fault of theirs, but I am optimistic that the days are not too far when international cricket will return to Pakistan and the stadia will once again be packed with crowds.
“Due to prior family commitments, I will only be available till the last group stage game. I want to thank Lahore Qalandars for giving me an opportunity to represent them and I look forward to not only enjoying my time in the HBL PSL 2019 but also contributing in making it a stronger brand,” added the iconic T20 cricketer.
International teams have been reluctant to tour Pakistan ever since the 2009 terror attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team bus in Lahore. Only Zimbabwe (2015) and the West Indies (2018) have toured the country. A Faf du Plessis-led ICC World XI side, which included other South African stars like Hashim Amla, David Miller, Morne Morkel, and Imran Tahir, had toured Lahore for a three-match T20I series in September 2017. This was followed by Sri Lankan team’s return to the city, almost eight years after the attack.
The 2017 PSL and two eliminators and the final last year have also been played in Pakistan.