Left to right: Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Mohammad Nabi © Getty Images
Left to right: Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Mohammad Nabi © Getty Images

March 3, 2009, Lahore. One of the gloomiest days in cricket. Seven Sri Lankan cricketers and the reserve umpire were injured. Six Pakistani policemen died while protecting them. Two civilians including a driver of the officials’ bus lost their lives. It was a day when terror triumphed over cricket.

Security fears in Pakistan dictated since. A generation of Pakistani players was denied home games. Misbah-ul-Haq, one of their most decorated leaders, did not have the privilege of leading the side at home. In the isolation of UAE, Pakistan adopted a new abode.

The resultant was empty stands, extreme weathers, alien conditions and a cricket-worshipping mass denied of international cricket.

Better late than never, ICC took the initiative to help rebuild international cricket in the region of Pakistan. The Andy Flower-coached ICC World XI side are set to take on the Pakistani side for 3 T20Is at Lahore.

Pakistan owe a lot to the Flower brothers. Grant, their batting coach, convinced the older Andy that cricket could be played here. Now Andy’s World XI are at Lahore for the high-profile series, called the Independence Cup.

Andy and the ICC had the toughest job in convincing players to tour Pakistan, erasing the security fears in their mind. The team led by Faf du Plessis has the likes of Paul Collingwood, Grant Elliott and Ben Cutting in the side.

Availability and non-reluctance of players took precedence over merit. Collingwood’s last international game was in 2011. Cutting isn’t even in the proximity of earning an Australian recall. Elliott is a retired cricketer. Thisara Perera struggles to find a place in the Sri Lanka XI these days. But then there are Hashim Amla, Samuel Badree, Imran Tahir and a few others…

In a parallel universe, in another Pakistan, with all external factors remaining constant, a World XI would have been selected on basis of merit.

How would the squad look?

Taking a cut-off since January 2016 and considering the records, here’s a merit-based World XI that should have ideally been in Pakistan.

ICC World XI Squad

Martin Guptill | New Zealand | ICC T20I Batting Rank: 10

Martin Guptill © Getty Images
Martin Guptill © Getty Images

M 9| R 392 | Ave 49| HS87* | SR: 171.9 | 50s: 4

That strike rate should seal his case. In the 9 T20Is he has played since 2016, Guptill has slammed 4 fifty-plus scores and his strike rate is exceptional. A vital cog behind New Zealand’s No. 1 rank in this format, Guptill is a livewire in the field.

Kane Williamson (c) | New Zealand | ICC T20I Batting Rank: 3

Kane Williamson © Getty Images
Kane Williamson © Getty Images

M 14| R 541 | Ave 49.2| HS 73* | SR: 117.6 | 50s: 5

To stabilise things at the other end, you need someone who is capable of batting through. Williamson is much-improved T20I batsman who can improvise and at the same time play the waiting game. Another livewire in the field, he also leads the side. The logic is simple. New Zealand are the No. 1 ranked T20I side at the moment.

Virat Kohli (vc) | India | ICC T20I Batting Rank: 1

Virat Kohli © Getty Images
Virat Kohli © Getty Images

M 20| R 814 | Ave 74| HS 90* | SR: 140.8 | 50s:8

The India captain is the vice-captain of this side. He is the best limited-overs batsman in contemporary cricket. Period. The crowd in Pakistan would have loved to see this superstar in action.

AB de Villiers | South Africa | ICC T20I Batting Rank: 20

AB de Villiers © Getty Images
AB de Villiers © Getty Images

M 13| R 436 | Ave 39.6| HS 71 | SR: 162.7 | 50s:4

No World XI is complete without this man. AB has been in decent form in the shortest format and note the strike rate!

Glenn Maxwell | Australia | ICC T20I Batting Rank: 5

Glenn Maxwell © Getty Images
Glenn Maxwell © Getty Images

M 11| R 435 | Ave 48.3| HS 145* | SR: 174.7 | 100s: 1| 50s:2

T20s are a tailor-made format for this Victorian. Maxwell has been in sublime form since his return to the Australian side. Look at that strike rate! A brilliant fielder, Maxwell can bowl handy off-spin if required.

Jos Buttler (wk) | England | ICC T20I Batting Rank: 19

Jos Buttler © Getty Images
Jos Buttler © Getty Images

M 16| R 422 | Ave 42.2| HS 73* | SR: 148.6 |50s:3 | Dismissals:8

Buttler gets a lot of credit for England’s renaissance in limited-overs cricket. He would have ideally played the role of a finisher and he is more than decent behind the stumps.

Mohammad Nabi | Afghanistan | ICC T20I All-rounder Rank: 3

Mohammad Nabi © Getty Images
Mohammad Nabi © Getty Images

M 25| R 443 | Ave 22.2| HS 89 | SR: 149.2 |50s:2

W:30 | Ave:21.6 | Econ R: 7.5 | SR: 17.3

Nabi is a force that has played a massive role in the Afghan resurgence. Nabi fits into the role of a genuine all-rounder. An apt man to have in finishing stages, Nabi is a fine off-spinner in shorter formats.

Rashid Khan | Afghanistan | ICC T20I Bowlers Rank: 4

Rashid Khan © Getty Images
Rashid Khan © Getty Images

M: 25| W:40 | Ave:13.3 | Econ R: 5.6 | SR: 14.1

This Afghan teen sensation is amongst the most sought-after players in T20 leagues across the world. His record speaks volumes of his dominance in the shorter formats. Apart from Nabi, this leg-spinner is another vital cog in Afghan’s recent success. Not to forget, he is a fantastic striker of the ball as well.

Imran Tahir | South Africa | ICC T20I Bowlers Rank: 2

Imran Tahir © Getty Images
Imran Tahir © Getty Images

M: 15| W:28 | Ave:13.9 | Econ R: 6.8 | SR: 12.1

Tahir is a must in any limited-overs side. Till very recently he was ranked the best limited-overs bowler in the world. He has found a place in the current World XI. The Lahori leg-spinner would like to hear the cheers from his original home crowd.

Jasprit Bumrah | India | ICC T20I Bowlers Rank: 3

Jasprit Bumrah © Getty Images
Jasprit Bumrah © Getty Images

M: 25| W:34 | Ave:18.4 | Econ R: 6.7 | SR: 16.4

Mumbai Indians, the most successful IPL franchise, have transited from Lasith Malinga to Bumrah as their wrecker-in-chief. He bowls in the Powerplay, he bowls at the death, he bowls to those Super Overs and his success ratio is tremendous. He is also arguably the best death bowler at the moment.

Mustafizur Rahman | Bangladesh | ICC T20I Bowlers Rank: 6

Mustafizur Rahman © Getty Images
Mustafizur Rahman © Getty Images

M: 12| W:21 | Ave:13.9 | Econ R: 6.3 | SR: 13

Don’t go by his wiry frame. Young ‘Fizz’ has a bag of tricks under his sleeve and in a short-while has emerged as Bangladesh’s strike bowler. Watch out for those well-guised off-cutters.

Extras

James Faulkner | Australia | ICC T20I Bowlers Rank: 7

M: 13| W:22 | Ave:17.7 | Econ R:8.3 | SR: 12.8

The above numbers indicate his bowling prowess. He can also be the ideal finisher with the bat. Faulkner can go for runs but look at that strike rate. He is a genuine wicket-taker.

Hashim Amla | South Africa | ICC T20I Batting Rank: 15

M 8| R 370 | Ave 74| HS 97* | SR: 146.2 |50s:5

The good thing is the fact that Amla will be starting in the XI. He is amongst the most-improved T20 batsmen. Had it been a full squad, Amla would have provided serious competition to Guptill or Williamson in the XI.

Evin Lewis | West Indies | ICC T20I Batting Rank: 4

M 13| R 417 | Ave 34.8| HS 125* | SR: 152.2 |100s: 2 | 50s:1

Lewis has found a likeness for Indian bowling in this format. He has quickly scaled to the No. 4 batting spot in T20I rankings. He has been in devastating form off late and West Indies and St Kitts and Nevis Patriots have only benefitted from that.

Mohammad Naveed | United Arab Emirates | ICC T20I Bowlers Rank: 10

M 19|W:27 | Ave:15.7 | Econ R: 5.8 | SR: 16.3

Not many have heard about this UAE cricketer but the medium-pacer has been in exceptional form in the shortest format. He deserves a spot in the squad, at least.