KARACHI - Pakistan may have failed to retain their Asia Cup title but the men in green have won the hearts of millions of fans across the country. A rapturous welcome was given to a group of players and team officials on their return from Bangladesh at Karachi’s Jinnah Terminal Airport on Sunday.
The group included four Karachi-bound players – Shahid Afridi, Fawad Alam, Anwar Ali and Sharjeel Khan along with head coach Moin Khan, chief consultant Zaheer Abbas and fielding coach Shoaib Mohammad. In a rare instance in recent times, hundreds of fans gathered at the airport lounge to welcome the players, holding placards chanting slogans of ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ – and in favour of Afridi and Alam who scored an unbeaten ton in the final. Misbahul Haq’s side lost the final to Sri Lanka by five wickets, in what turned out to be an error filled display by the defending champions.
But the national team sparked enough thrill earlier in the league phase with dramatic turnarounds in crunch matches against arch-rivals India and the hosts.
Afridi one of the main performers for the team in the competition said that players gave their best to retain the Asia Cup. “We gave our best shot in the final,” Afridi told reporters at the airport. “There is room for improvement in all departments including bowling and batting,” said the charismatic player before adding that the team’s moral was high before the World Twenty20.
Afridi said he will be taking a week’s rest to be ready for ICC World T20 which is starting in Bangladesh from March 16. “We made some mistakes in the final which cost us the title,” he admitted. “I am looking forward to World T20 and perform well. We got good combination for the World T20 and team will produce good results,” he hoped. He praised the Bangladesh crowd for supporting Pakistan team during their game against India. He complimented chief coach Moin and batting legend Zaheer and other member of the team management for supporting and motivating the players.
Meanwhile, Former captain Wasim Akram who also returned from Bangladesh after a commentary assignment termed Pakistan’s performance in the event commendable. “Pakistan team deserves praise for its performance,” said the legendary fast bowler. “I really enjoyed their approach and brand of cricket in the tournament.” The rest of the Pakistan squad is scheduled to return to Lahore today (Monday).