New Delhi: The Indian cricket team arrived in Lahore this afternoon for their 40 day Pakistan tour, aboard a special Indian Airlines flight from New Delhi. Security officials converted the airport into a virtual fortress and after a quick immigration check, the team was whisked off to a five-star hotel. They traveled in a bulletproof bus in a convoy of ten security vehicles carrying military guards and commandos. Meeting Vajpayee Earlier in the day, the men in blue met Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The Prime Minister presented a bat to the team captain Saurav Ganguly along with best wishes for the series. Vajpayee's good wishes read: "Khel hi nahi, dil bhi jitye. Meri shubkamana apke saath." (Besides the game, also win hearts. My best wishes are with you). Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha also held that the cricket tour is an integral part of New Delhi's effort to improve relations with Islamabad.
Meanwhile, Ganguly is confident of re-writing history in Pakistan. According to him, the neighbours will be under pressure, playing at home.
"The past has no meaning. There are two new teams and two new sides," Ganguly told reporters, when asked to comment on the fact that India did not have a good record in Pakistan and had yet to win a Test match in that country.
Ganguly also underplayed the Shoiab Akhtar factor, saying the role of a main bowler would put more pressure on him.
"All 11 players have to contribute. It is how much runs you put on the board that will matter," he said, while admitting the players needed to be a "bit more disciplined in all aspects of the game."
The team had arrived in Delhi last night, after a three-day camp in Kolkata.
Asked how much the players would be affected by the unprecedented security mechanism, he said, "We will have to go there and assess the situation. It is difficult to pass a statement now, as the tour has not started. Our concerns will always be there but we trust what has been told to us by the governments".
"I think it is a real challenge for us to do well in Pakistan. The series has a great significance as it will improve the relationship of the two countries," said coach John Wright.
"I personally feel that the team will do well in Pakistan as the boys have taken up the challenge well on previous tours. I am sure they will do the same in Pakistan as there is lot at stake," the former New Zealand skipper added.
Meanwhile, Inspector General of Police Yashowardhan Azad and Additional Commissioner of Police Manoj Lall gave the cricketers an overview of the security plan
The security team had been divided into two groups. While Azad and Lall will stay with the cricketers till March 22, the second group comprising Deputy Inspector General of Police Dharmendra Kumar and Additional Deputy Commissioner of Delhi Police (Security) Prabhakar -- will take over the security liasion for the team from there onwards.
The security plan for players includes their evacuation in case of a militant attack. The dos' and don'ts would prevent them as well as Indian Cricket Board officials from travelling alone or in small groups.
The players were asked not to take gifts without those being screened by the security staff. The cricketers were also familarised with the identity cards issued by Pakistani security agencies to the hotel staff and security personnel, who will be in close proximity of the team.
The players have also been asked to board a vehicle only after it has been thoroughly checked and cleared for travel by the security staff.
The sources said the team would be given a thorough briefing at Karachi as well, where the first one-dayer would be played on Saturday. Pakistan security agencies were likely to deploy choppers for having an aerial view of the situation on the ground during the matches.
The Indians play five one dayers and three tests during a 40 daylong tour of PakistanaÂ"the first full tour by India since 1989. The first tour game is on the 11th, with India taking on Pakistan A in Lahore. The first one-day international is on the 13th at Karachi.
(With PTI inputs)
Topics : Cricket