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Help for Heroes

Cricket for a cause: A history

ICC World XI v Windies, feature

The Hurricane Relief T20 Challenge match is only the latest in a long line of cricket fixtures organised to help those in need.

The cricket world is coming together at Lord’s on Thursday 31 May to do its bit for communities in the Caribbean affected by deadly hurricanes last year.

Shahid Afridi will lead a side that includes players from England, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, New Zealand and Nepal, taking on the Windies in a Twenty20 International match at the Home of Cricket. All proceeds will go towards rebuilding five stadia ravaged by the hurricanes.

This isn’t the first time cricketers have set aside traditional rivalries for a bigger cause.


Most teams these days take time out on their tours to mingle with underprivileged communities, doing what they can to bring a smile on the faces of those they meet. These experiences leave a lasting impression not only on the people who are part of these initiatives, but also on the cricketers, for whom these interactions can be illuminating and humbling. The International Cricket Council and Unicef Cricket for Good Clinics are as good an example of this as any.

The Pink Tests in Australia and South Africa's annual Pink ODI are a matter of honour to the teams that play them, and in recent times, the sport has been used to help refugees, the environment, gender equality and amplify voices around the world.

But apart from these small efforts, there have been high-profile charity matches organised, where the best of their era came together for all-star line-ups.

Sport Aid

The Sport Aid clash at Edgbaston in 1986 brought together Imran Khan and Ian Botham in a ROW XI
The Sport Aid clash at Edgbaston in 1986 brought together Imran Khan and Ian Botham in a ROW XI


One of the first initiatives of its kind, this campaign aimed to pitch in towards famine relief in Africa in 1986. The pinnacle event was a worldwide ‘Race against time’, where 19.8 million people around the world ran, jogged or walked 10km. But along with that was also a cricket match.

The game at Edgbaston was ultimately cut short by rain, but it did bring together the likes of Ian Botham and Imran Khan in a Rest of the World XI that took on the mighty Windies.

World Cricket Tsunami Appeal
The tsunami in the Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004 caused massive loss of life and property across India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, Maldives and Malaysia – many of those cricket-playing nations.

A World XI and Asia XI clashed in 2005 as part of World Cricket Tsunami Appeal
A World XI and Asia XI clashed in 2005 as part of World Cricket Tsunami Appeal


On January 10, within two weeks of the disaster, a one-day international between World XI and Asia XI was played at Melbourne Cricket Ground to raise funds for those affected, and contributed over AUS$14 million towards humanitarian aid.

The World XI, coached by Steve Waugh and captained by Ricky Ponting, included Chris Gayle, Brian Lara (Windies), Chris Cairns, Stephen Fleming, Daniel Vettori (New Zealand), Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne (Australia) and Darren Gough (England). Dwayne Bravo was the 12th man.

India’s Sourav Ganguly captained the Asia XI, which had Abdul Razzaq, Mohammad Yousuf (Pakistan), Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan, Anil Kumble, Virender Sehwag (India), Sanath Jayasuriya, Muttiah Muralitharan, Kumar Sangakkara and Chaminda Vaas (Sri Lanka). Bangladesh’s Alok Kapali was the 12th man and Bob Woolmer the coach.

Ricky Ponting scored a century as World XI beat Asia XI by 112 runs
Ricky Ponting scored a century as World XI beat Asia XI by 112 runs


A century by Ponting helped World XI post 344/8 and complete a comprehensive 112-run win. While those numbers did go towards their international stats, at the end of the day, those really weren’t the ones that mattered.

Apart from this ODI, there were also other charity matches that pitched in for relief efforts. New Zealand took on a FICA World XI, MCC played an International XI, while Surrey hosted a T20 game between Asia and a RoW team.

Help for Heroes XI v Rest of the World XI
MS Dhoni’s 38* off 22 balls sealed a four-wicket win for Help for Heroes XI against Rest of the World XI in a T20 match in September 2015 at The Oval – and helped the UK charity raise nearly $650,000 for veterans, military personnel and their families.

MS Dhoni scored a 22-ball 38* as Help for Heroes beat ROW XI in 2015
MS Dhoni scored a 22-ball 38* as Help for Heroes beat ROW XI in 2015


Dhoni led the likes of Andrew Strauss, Sehwag, Graeme Swann and Damien Martyn, against a star-studded RoW side. Brendon McCullum captained Hayden, Graeme Smith, Lara, Mahela Jayawardena, Scott Styris, Razzaq, Tim Southee, Shapoor Zadran and Vettori in the match.

Independence Cup
The three T20Is that the Faf du Plessis-led World XI played against the hosts in Lahore, Pakistan, were not charity matches, but they had their heart in the right place.

In September 2017, a World XI featuring Hashim Amla, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Morne Morkel (South Africa), George Bailey, Ben Cutting, Tim Paine (wk) (Australia), Samuel Badree, Darren Sammy (Windies), Paul Collingwood (England), Grant Elliott (New Zealand), Tamim Iqbal (Bangladesh) and Thisara Perera (Sri Lanka) brought top-flight cricket back to Pakistan and the country was grateful.

Bringing top-flight cricket back to Pakistan, a World XI side played three T20Is in Pakistan in 2017
Bringing top-flight cricket back to Pakistan, a World XI side played three T20Is in Pakistan in 2017


“I just loved seeing the emotions on people's faces, that's something that stood out for me, how much it meant for the people of Pakistan. That goes way beyond what you do on the cricket field,” said du Plessis afterwards.

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