Kolkata: With the issue of Pakistan's participation in the World T20 having been pushed into a political premise, and the uncertainty that it thus signalled, the sigh of relief on the team's arrival here on Saturday was palpable.
Pak cricket captain Shahid Afridi waves upon his team's arrival at NSCBI Airport in Kolkata on Saturday. Pic/PTI
Officials of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), which earned the right to host the marquee match between India and Pakistan after it had to be shifted from Dharamsala following a frown from the Himachal Pradesh chief minister, were in celebratory mood as the Pakistanis landed after a the long-haul from Abu Dhabi.
The team was whisked away to their hotel in south Kolkata amidst heightened security cover that saw the arrival area of the airport cordoned off and movement of media persons restricted. The team bus left in a siren-blaring convoy. Some fans waiting patiently beyond the cordoned off area, chanted 'Afridi! Afridi!' before the star all-rounder boarded the team bus.
Practice at Eden Gardens today
"The members of the squad were received in the traditional manner with flower bouquets. The team will practice at the Eden Gardens on Sunday morning and the police have requested us to restrict access to the Club House gallery. As on previous occasions, we are confident that the team's stay in Kolkata will be a pleasant one," Joint-secretary Subir Ganguly told Sunday mid-day.
Pakistan, who were scheduled to play a CAB XI comprising Bengal's T20 squad, will now warm up with a match against Sri Lanka on Monday. They open their World T20 campaign on Wednesday with a match against a qualifier.