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No fanfare as Pakistan lands home amid security cordon

SECURITY concerns meant Pakistan's Twenty20 World Cup-winning team was whisked away from disappointed waiting fans upon their return home early yesterday.

Captain Younis Khan arrived separately from the rest of the team in Karachi. Geo TV showed a smiling Khan surrounded by fans and family members at 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 Lahore airport hours ahead of the 3:30am 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."

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 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.

Whole nation

"I apologize to the whole nation as a large number of people were 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.


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