Kolkata: The Pakistani cricket team today arrived in India ending days of uncertainty over its participation in the World T20 tournament underway in India. The team landed at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose airport in Kolkata around 7.55 pm amid tight security and a host of fans waiting to welcome them.
The Pakistan cricket contingent arrived in the city from Abu Dhabi, finally ending days of suspension over their participation in the mega event
The 27-member Pakistan contingent comprising 15 players, 12 officials and support staff reached the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport via Abu Dhabi amid tight security following a last minute nod by the Pakistani authorities for the team’s participation in the tournament in India.
Concerns by the Pakistani government and its cricket administration board over security of its players forced the ICC to shift the venue for the India-Pakistan clash from Dharamshala to Kolkata. Both teams square off against each other on March 19 at the Eden Gardens.
Hundreds of fans gathered at the airport to welcome the Pakistan team as Shahid Afridi and his players came out of the airport. The Pakistani skipper reciprocated the warm gestures, waving at the crowd before leading his teammates into two buses as they went straight to the team hotel.
It took about an hour for the Pakistan players to clear their immigration formalities before they finally came out of the airport to the loud cheers of the fans gathered there.
Some fans were also heard shouting ‘Three cheers for India’.
There were tight security arrangements for the Pakistani contingent with hundreds of security personnel from CISF and black commandos maintaining a vigil as the players landed at the airport.
The Pakistan contingent includes manager Intikhab Alam, the experienced former Test captain and a high profile security manager.
Pakistan High Commissioner to India, Abdul Basit welcomed the cricket team on their arrival here.
”Welcome to India Team Pakistan, play your best and the cup is ours, we will be in Kolkata to cheer you up,” he tweeted.
The Pakistan women’s team also landed in Chennai today to the take part in the Women’s World T20.
Due to the delay in their arrival, the Pakistan men’s team has missed out on a warm-up match against Bengal which was scheduled for yesterday. They will now play a practice game against Sri Lanka here on Monday.
Their first match of the main tournament will be held at Eden Gardens on March 16 against a qualifier team, followed by the marquee clash against arch-rival India at the same venue on March 19.
They will then take on New Zealand (March 22) and Australia (March 25) in their remaining Group B matches—both in Mohali.
The Pakistan team was to fly out on Wednesday but the government put their departure on hold, citing security concerns. On Thursday, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan ruled out sending the team until special security assurances were met from India.
The matter was solved following security assurances from the Indian government.
(With inputs from PTI)
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