LAHORE: With just one month to go for the start of the Pakistan Super League 2019, South African star and former captain AB de Villiers has confirmed he will tour Pakistan for the Lahore Qalandars’ matches scheduled in the cricket-loving nation.
The flamboyant batsman, who will be making his PSL debut for Lahore Qalandars, announced he will feature in back-to-back matches at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore in March.
Qalandars will take on defending champions Islamabad United on March 9, and Multan Sultans the following day.
Lahore will also host Eliminator 1 (3 v 4) on March 12, 2019. Karachi’s National Stadium will host a total of five matches: Karachi Kings vs Peshawar Zalmi on March 7; Karachi Kings vs Quetta Gladiators on March 10; Qualifier 1 vs Qualifier 2 on March 13; Eliminator 2 on March 15; and the final on March 17.
De Villiers will also be in action on the opening day of the tournament on February 14 in Dubai, when the Qalandars meet Islamabad United.
“I am delighted to confirm that I will represent Lahore Qalandars in front of our home crowds on 9 and 10 March, during the HBL PSL 2019,” de Villiers, one of the most followed and admired cricketers of the modern era, announced.
“I look forward to revisiting the Gaddafi Stadium and aim to play my part in helping Lahore Qalandars achieve something they have been aspiring for since the inception of this tournament in 2016,” he added.
De Villiers’ only previous visit to Lahore was in 2007. In the drawn Test that October, he had scored 45 and eight not out, but returned later in the same month to score 103 not out, 35 and 17 in the first, second and fifth ODIs, respectively.
“I am fully aware that cricket is like a second religion in Pakistan. 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,” said de Villiers.
The 34-year old, who announced a shock retirement from international cricket last year, will be the sixth South Africa cricketer to visit Lahore in less than 18 months. In September 2017, Faf du Plessis captained the ICC World XI, which also included Hashim Amla, David Miller, Morne Morkel and Imran Tahir. Pakistan won the three-T20I series 2-1.
Later that year, Sri Lanka visited Lahore for a T20I, while the Windies played three T20Is in Karachi in April 2018. In May 2015, Zimbabwe had toured Lahore for five international matches.
“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,” de Villiers continued.
“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 PSL 2019 but also contributing in making it a stronger brand.”
Lahore Qalandars owner Fawad Rana said, via a press release: “There can’t be a bigger and better news for Pakistan cricket fans and the HBL PSL 2019 on the day we are celebrating ‘one month to go’ that AB de Villiers has confirmed his availability for the two Lahore matches.
“De Villiers is one of the icons of international cricket, who has entertained his fans world-over, not only with his innovative and aggressive batting, but also with the flare, passion and agility that he always carries with him onto the field of play.
“I am certain he will further brighten the Gaddafi Stadium with his amazing talent and skills on 9 and 10 March and this good news is a gift for our Qalandars clan.”
PCB chairman Ehsan Mani welcomed the announcement. “We appreciate the decision of AB de Villiers and look forward to welcoming him to the home of Pakistan cricket. I am sure de Villiers’s appearance will attract new fans, and more eyeballs will follow PSL than ever before.
“I am confident that de Villiers’ decision at the back of his fellow World XI, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and the Windies’ cricketers’ decisions to play in Lahore will encourage other leading cricketers and international sides to visit this cricket-passionate country.
“For the Lahore crowds, it will be a great opportunity to watch this generation’s cricket genius live in action. I am sure they will turn up in great numbers to support de Villiers as well as Lahore Qalandars and their opponents.”
Lahore Qalandars captain Mohammad Hafeez also lauded de Villiers’ decision. “De Villiers is one of the most respected cricketers in the world. He is a proven performer, who has added new dimensions to batting in white-ball cricket.
“Not just me but the entire Lahore Qalandars side will wait eagerly for the unique experience of sharing with him a flight to Lahore and then being in the same team kit in front of what I envisage will be a packed house.
“This will again be an opportunity for the Lahore crowds to show their passion, respect, love and hospitality, and I am confident that AB will take home memories which will bring him back again and again to this beautiful piece of land.”