Kolkata, March 12 (IANS) The Pakistan cricket team finally set foot on Indian soil on Saturday evening amidst tight security to take part in the World Twenty20.
With elite commandos, Rapid Action Force personnel and crack teams from the city and state police putting up several layers of security, the Shahid Afridi-led Pakistan squad reached the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport at 7.44 p.m., ending weeks of uncertainty over their arrival.
The visitors travelled from Lahore to Abu Dhabi and rested there for some time before boarding an Etihad flight to reach the city, where they will be staying for around a week to tune up for the big tournament. They are scheduled to play a warm-up game (March 13) and then two Super ten group matches at Eden Gardens.
The Pakistanis lock horns with a qualifier (March 16) before engaging in a mouth-watering clash with India on March 19.
The 27-member Pskistan contingent comprising 15 players and a dozen officials and support staff were welcomed by Cricket Association of Bengal officials, with a large number of cheering cricket buffs waving to the visitors and calling out the players by their names.
Afridi waved back to the crowd, before the security officials packed off the team in two buses enroute to the team hotel.
Pakistan are scheduled to play New Zealand on March 22 and Australia on March 25 in their remaining Group B fixtures. Mohali will host both the games.The Pakistan government on Friday officially decided to send the cricketers to take part in the ongoing World Twenty20 tournament.
The decision came after Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the Pakistan cricket team will be provided adequate security during their World Twenty20 campaign in India.
“Whosoever will come to India will be secured,” Rajnath told reporters in Ghaziabad, near the Indian capital, on Friday.
The team was originally scheduled to depart for India on Tuesday evening. But the departure was delayed by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) as they awaited the report of a three-member team sent to review security arrangements in India.
After the International Cricket Council (ICC) announced on Wednesday that the India-Pakistan match has been shunted out of Dharamsala, the PCB had said on Thursday that the team will be allowed to leave for the World T20 early on Friday.
But the team’s departure was further postponed later on Thursday when the Pakistan government insisted on written assurances from the Indian authorities.
The delay has affected the Pakistan team’s preparations for the World T20 as the warm-up game against the Bengal state team, which was scheduled for Saturday, has been cancelled.