A galaxy of former and current stars will be in action at the iconic Lord's on Thursday to play an exhibition match between the ICC World XI and the West Indies and help raise funds for the refurbishment of five cricket stadia in the Caribbean that were damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.
Former Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi has finally been named to lead the World XI after England's limited overs captain Eoin Morgan sustained a broken finger during a domestic match.
"It's a great honour to be leading the ICC World XI side, that too for such a good cause. I'm sure all the players from either side are looking forward to the match with great enthusiasm and people will get to see some high-quality cricket on Thursday," Afridi said on Twitter.
“It’s a great honour to be leading the ICC World XI side, that too for such a good cause. I’m sure all the players from either side are looking forward to the match with great enthusiasm and people will get to see some high-quality cricket on Thursday.”— Shahid Afridi (@SAfridiOfficial) May 29, 2018
The World XI side, in fact, has had more than a few changes since being formally announced.
Morgan was the first name announced, followed by those of Afridi, his compatriot Shoaib Malik and Thisara Perera, the Sri Lanka T20I captain. Next came Rashid Khan, the Afghan leg-spin superstar, and Bangladesh stalwarts Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal, followed by Indians Dinesh Karthik and Hardik Pandya and New Zealanders Luke Ronchi and Mitchell McClenaghan.
Russell, Gayle, Afridi, Malik, Brathwaite & Khan.— Lord's Cricket Ground 🏏 (@HomeOfCricket) May 29, 2018
Just a few of the big names playing in the #CricketRelief match between Windies Cricket & ICC World XI at Lord's on Thursday night!
🎟 Grab your tickets now ➡️ https://t.co/mAb26Ut0dL pic.twitter.com/brmkPVXAdV
That completed the XI, but Shakib opted out because of personal reasons and was replaced by the exciting teenaged Nepal leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane.
Pandya has also opted out since then, to be replaced by countrymate Mohammed Shami, who has also been swapped with Tymal Mills, while Sam Billings has filled in for Morgan.
English cricketers Adil Rashid and Sam Curran have also been late additions to the 13-man squad.
The squad still wears an extremely strong look. Iqbal, Billings, Karthik, Ronchi and Malik, with Afridi and Perera providing excellent options for a late burst, makes for a mouth-watering batting line-up.
Karthik, Ronchi and Billings are all wicket-keeping candidates, while in McClenaghan, Curran and Mills, there's a good pace department.
But the most exciting is perhaps the spin attack, or the leg-spin attack, with the two Rashid's and Lamichhane all available for selection, not to forget Afridi himself.
With Samuel Badree on the other side, this one could well be the greatest exhibition of T20 leg-spin bowling ever.
Whichever combination Afridi and Andy Flower, the World XI coach, decide to put out on the field should provide excellent competition to the defending ICC World T20 champions.
Carlos Brathwaite, who hit Ben Stokes for four successive sixes to win the Windies the last ICC World T20 at Kolkata's Eden Gardens in April 2016, is the captain of the Windies side, and the squad has some fantastic T20 talent in their midst.
T20 stars Chris Gayle, Andre Russell, Evin Lewis and Badree are the big names in Brathwaite's line-up, while in Marlon Samuels, Andre Fletcher, Rovman Powell, Denesh Ramdin, Kesrick Williams and others, there's a lot of firepower.
Six of those players were a part of the XI that won the World T20 2016 final.
ICC World XI: Shahid Afridi (Captain), Sam Billings (WK), Sam Curran, Tamim Iqbal, Tymal Mills, Dinesh Karthik (WK), Rashid Khan, Sandeep Lamichhane, Mitchell McClenaghan, Shoaib Malik, Thisara Perera, Luke Ronchi (WK), Adil Rashid.
West Indies: Carlos Brathwaite (Captain), Samuel Badree, Rayad Emrit, Andre Fletcher, Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis, Ashley Nurse, Keemo Paul, Rovman Powell, Denesh Ramdin (WK), Andre Russell, Marlon Samuels, Kesrick Williams.
(With IANS Inputs)