By Sajid Sadiq
Cricket fans from all nations are eagerly anticipating a mouth-watering encounter between two star-studded playing elevens who will line up at Lord’s on Saturday 5 July to commemorate the Bicentenary Celebration of the historic ground.
The MCC team will be led by the recently retired Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar, while the Rest of the World XI is captained by his old rival and equally famous Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne.
Lord's completes its 200 year anniversary on June 22, having hosted the first known cricket match back in 1814 between MCC and Hertfordshire, and this game between teams featuring some of the top names of today and yesteryear will be a fitting tribute to the Home of Cricket’s stature as a place of reverence for players and fans alike.
The MCC team includes Tendulkar's former Indian teammate Rahul Dravid, West Indies batting legend Brian Lara, Australian pace bowler Brett Lee, as well as Pakistani seam bowler Umar Gul as well as master off-spinner Saeed Ajmal.
The Warne-led Rest of the World XI features Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Muttiah Muralitharan, Adam Gilchrist, Kevin Pietersen and Pakistan all-rounder Shahid Afridi.
No stranger to the limelight given his exploits with the ball at the international and domestic levels, Ajmal is looking ahead to what promises to be a spectacular occasion at the Home of Cricket and spoke of his excitement at being asked to play in a match of such significance.
"First and foremost I'm honoured to have been asked to play in the MCC versus Rest of the World match," he stated.
"It should be a fantastic occasion featuring some of the greatest players in the history of the game.
"There are many superstars in both teams and it will be brilliant to play alongside and against some of cricket's legends and biggest names."
Ajmal who has recently been making headlines with his superlative performances for Worcestershire - which have made him the leading wicket-taker in the LV= County Championship - also spoke highly of MCC and it's contribution to cricket around the world, adding: "MCC is well known all around the world, it's a very famous cricket club and institution.
"MCC does some great work for cricket all over the globe and supports some excellent causes linked to cricket. MCC's contribution to cricket is invaluable and their efforts are really appreciated. I'm delighted to be part of this great occasion at Lord's on 5 July."
One of Pakistan's bowling attacks most potent weapons, Ajmal at the age of 36 is ranked as the number one bowler in ODIs and holds the 3rd and 5th rankings in T20s and Tests respectively.
Having played around the world and represented Pakistan with distinction on a number of occasions, the spin maestro was quick to express his joy at having an opportunity to play at Lord’s and further added that he feels that playing at this venue also brings the best out of every player, irrespective of where they are from and that every match there is a special occasion for him.
"I get butterflies every time I play at Lord's, it's such a historic ground steeped in tradition," he added.
"The atmosphere at Lord's is unique and I'm certain that every visiting player tries that little bit harder when they are playing at Lord's.
"There's nothing quite like a full house at Lord's and as the MCC versus Rest of the World match is completely sold out, it should be a special occasion for players, fans and everyone else involved."
Ajmal will be one of three Pakistani players taking part in the match, with team mates Umar Gul and Shahid Afridi making up the trio.
Ajmal feels that it's also an honour for Pakistan Cricket and the Pakistan Cricket Board that three of its players have been invited to the historic occasion on 5 July, adding: "It's great news for Pakistan cricket that Shahid, Umar and I have been invited to play at this great occasion.
We'll be there to not only do our best on the field for our respective teams, but we are also at Lord's as ambassadors for Pakistan cricket. It's good to see players from all over the world invited and it will be nice to catch up with friends and play alongside cricketers who have always been on the opposition."
The fifty overs per side match commences at 10:45am local time and is completely sold out.
Sajid Sadiq is manager and writer for PakPassion.net, the world's most popular Pakistan cricket website.