All star teams in international sport somehow always end up being a mess. In cricket, the history of World XI’s has not been a particularly proud one. For one, there have only been so many attempts at creating such a team. When there have been, they have not come to fruition.
In the 70s, two different teams had been created in an attempt to create tougher competition. The first team played a series in England against England. The second played against Australia in Australia. The goal was to create diverse and dynamic teams that would pose a serious challenge to the then mammoths of world cricket. Naturally, both teams failed miserably.
Even in these early, juvenile attempts at creating a ‘World team,’ the results were ugly. Gathering good cricketers from all over the world and throwing them together in a single dressing room just wasn’t enough. Cricket is by its nature a complex game. The many layers and nuances of the game have to be cradled by the group of 11 men out on the field. With their entire worlds in common and years playing together, national teams have the astounding capability of being a complete mess on any given day. 11 strangers were never going to cut it.
The next World XI to flounder was the one created in 2005. Given full international status, they were supposed to take the mighty Australians on at their peak. On paper, it seemed a solid team to finally do some damage on Ricky Ponting and his seemingly invincible men. What happened instead was what was always going to, embarrassing failure.
Since then, there have been other such teams. The Asia XI and Africa XI along with other all star setups have been short lived experiments meant for relief funds and special occasions. Almost as a way to spice things up, and add some much needed oomph to the world of cricket and do something good along the way.
And with the creation of franchise cricket, it seemed that the services of World XIs would no longer be needed to give cricket just a dash of sexy. The IPL would be more than enough for that.
The World XI that came to Pakistan, in this regard, was an interesting call. For one it was neither to take on the invincible nor for charity, even if it was a favour to the PCB in a way. Another difference was that it was not nearly as star studded an event as previous World XIs have been. Captained by Faf du Plessis, it featured a number of South Africans including Hashim Amla, and England legend Paul Collingwood. It was for sure a very good line-up, but not what one would ideally want a hallowed ‘World XI’ to be.
Despite that, somehow, this World XI worked. Perhaps it was because of the increased coordination fostered by franchise cricket and ever expanding cricketing understanding, but whatever the reason, it worked.
For once a World XI managed to put up a decent showing, managing to win one out of the three games they played and giving a run for their money to the host team. The first match, held a year ago today, was a high scoring affair with nearly 400 runs scored on the day. The second game saw the World XI pull off a win in a penultimate ball six with few wickets remaining. The third saw Pakistan give the World XI its only drubbing, but only because they scored much more, with the visitors still managing a total of over 150.
For the history of the World XI, it marked the first time that the team showed actual potential as a competing body. For Pakistan, it meant the return of quality international cricket to the country, the likes of which could not be provided by Zimbabwe, the PSL or second rate Sri Lanka squads.
It has been a year since the World XI visited Pakistan. For both Pakistan and the concept of a World XI, it is high time something of the sort is done again.