Pakistan team arrives to warm welcome

Last Updated: Apr 01, 2011, 15:11 PM IST

Karachi/Lahore: Their heartbreaking loss to India in the World Cup semifinal notwithstanding, Pakistan`s cricket team was accorded a grand welcome on its return to the country with die-hard fans and top leaders greeting the players.

The welcome was similar at both Karachi and Lahore airports, where people gathered in small pockets carrying banners and garlands and shouting slogans.

The ministers were led by chief minister of Punjab province, Shahbaz Sharif, at the Lahore airport.

"It is a historic moment in Pakistan cricket that the Chief Minister himself has taken the initiative to come and welcome our players," Pakistan Cricket Board chief Ejaz Butt said.

After being mobbed at the Karachi airport, Afridi was accompanied by legions of fans to his home, some 10 kilometres from the terminal.

"You have done us proud by reaching the semi-finals after beating bigger teams. Victory and defeat is part and parcel of the game and we accept it," Shahbaz told reporters at the airport.

"The people appreciate your hard work and hope you will continue to perform and improve in the same manner," he said while announcing a grand reception for the players on April 5 in Lahore.

The Punjab CM has already announced cash prizes of Rs five lakh for each player and official for their performances.

The Pakistan squad reached Karachi from India via Dubai early this morning.

While Afridi, Younis Khan and Asad Shafiq left for their homes in Karachi, the rest of the players flew to Lahore.

The warm reception was a welcome aberration for the Pakistan players, who had been been subjected to ridicule and abuse by angry fans on many occasions in the past.

Butt said he was happy to see the response of the people.

"I am happy to see the welcome given to the players because they need our support and encouragement to perform better in future," Butt said.

PTI