Pakistan dodge fans upon homecoming

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Security concerns meant Pakistan's World Twenty20-winning team was whisked away from disappointed waiting fans upon their return home early on Tuesday.

Updated: June 23, 2009 14:29 IST
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Security concerns meant Pakistan's World Twenty20-winning team was whisked away from disappointed waiting fans upon their return home early on Tuesday.

Captain Younis Khan arrived separately from the rest of the team in Karachi. Geo Television showed a smiling Khan surrounded by fans and family members at the Karachi Airport, and he was showered with rose petals.

Other team members arrived earlier in Lahore, and officials drove them away amid tight security.

"We changed the plan due to security reasons and drove players and team officials in a bus to the National Cricket Academy," police official Umar Virk told Aaj Television, without mentioning any specific threat to the team.

Fans started to gather at the Lahore airport hours ahead of the 3:30 a.m. arrival time after watching Pakistan win the T20 World Cup.

The excited fans _ mostly youngsters _ danced to the beat of drums and chanted slogans "Pakistan zindabad" (long live Pakistan) before they realized the cricketers had already left from another terminal.

"Our hearts are broken as we could not greet our heroes," 20-year-old Danish Shams said. "We came here only to have a glimpse of them, but now the police officials are saying that they (players) have already left in a bus."

Zeeshan Qaiser, another fan said he was "deeply hurt" after not getting to welcome of any of the Pakistan team.

"Not only me, everyone who is present here is hurt," he said. "We just wanted to have a glimpse of them, we are tired from shouting slogans in praise of them and now they didn't show up."

Khan was able to soak up the adulation. He announced his retirement from Twenty20 after Pakistan defeated Sri Lanka by eight wickets in the final at Lord's on Sunday. However, he will continue to lead Pakistan in test and one-dayers.

"It was in my mind before going to the World Cup that if we win it and I gave a good performance I will retire from Twenty20 cricket," Khan said.

The Pakistan captain defended his statement of terming Twenty20 cricket as "fun cricket" during the tournament.

"I said this because I didn't want my players to come under pressure, it was part of the plan which paid off," he said.

"I stayed cool and calm throughout the tournament and knew if we played well we can win."

The Pakistan players were elated over their victory _ the country's biggest since winning the 1992 World Cup _ but were also disappointed that fans could not greet them at the airport.

"I apologize to the whole nation as a large number of people kept waiting for us at the airport, but we could not come out due to security reasons," left-arm paceman Sohail Tanvir told Express News after arriving at the cricket academy.

Coach Intikhab Alam said it was "unfortunate" that fans could not greet their heroes.

"People have not slept for the last two days, but unfortunately such things do happen and I want to thank them," Alam, who was also the coach of Pakistan's 1992 World Cup team, said.

"We should win more laurels for the country and I don't think we can give a better gift than this to the whole nation."

A Pakistan Cricket Board official said Shahid Afridi _ man of the match in the final _ and Fawad Alam were due to arrive later Tuesday.

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