Friday, April 1, 2011


The Pakistani cricket team, which lost to arch-rivals India in the 2011 World Cup semifinal, was accorded a heroes' welcome by its fans on its return home early on Friday.Afridi was greeted at the airport by a large number of fans who chanted "Boom Boom Afridi we love you" and "Pakistan team has done us proud", and waved the Pakistani flag, Dawn reported.The team, which left Mumbai late Thursday, arrived in Karachi in the early hours of Friday via Dubai.

Having recieved a warm welcome from cricket fans, Pakistani skipper Shahid Afridi said he wanted to thank the nation for giving his team unwavering support during the World Cup.

"To lose the semifinal was disappointing but I think now the time has come for senior players to be rested and new players to be tried out," he said.

Afridi, Younis Khan and Asad Shafiq touched down in Karachi, while the rest of the players and officials flew to Lahore, where Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman were present to welcome them.

With two Pakistani bowlers in tournament's highest wicket takers' list, and Afridi as the leading wicket taker so far, the all-rounder praised his team's bowlers. But he said the batting needed improvement.

He underlined the need of a batting coach for the team, none of whose batsmen feature in the top ten run-getters' list despite reaching the semi-finals.

However, Afridi refused to blame Misbah-ul-Haq, who came under heavy criticism from all quarters, for the 29-run semifinal loss.

"Misbah wanted to take the game closer to the end and then go for the big shots, which wasn't a wrong strategy," the captain said of his deputy.

He said members of the Pakistan squad remain very supportive of each other and the defeat had not damaged their unity.

"The great support shown by the nation has really held us together after the loss," Afridi told reporters.

He also said that Interior Minister Rehman Malik's called him ahead of the match.

"The interior minister called me a few times before the match and I ensured him that the team is wholly committed to the cause of winning," Afridi said.

Emotional scenes were also witnessed at Lahore airport where dozens of fans mobbed the players while others danced around.

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