Pakistan team arrives in Kolkata

The Pakistan squad including 15 players, 12 officials and support staff arrived in Kolkata on Saturday evening.

Commandos escort Pakistan Team bus during arrival in a city hotel in Kolkata on Saturday night.   -  PTI

Members of Pakistan's women's team at the Chennai airport.   -  M. Moorthy

Ending weeks of uncertainty, the Pakistan cricket team finally arrived in Indian on Saturday evening to take part in the ICC World Twenty20.

Photos: >Pakistan touches down in Kolkata

With elite commandos, Rapid Action Force personnel and crack teams from the city and state police putting up several layers of security, the Shahid Afridi-led Pakistan squad reached the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport at 7.44 p.m.

The visiting team travelled from Lahore to Abu Dhabi and after a brief layover, boarded an Etihad flight to reach the city, where it will be staying for around a week. Pakistan is scheduled to play a warm-up game (March 13) and then two Super 10 group matches at Eden Gardens.

Pakistan locks horns with a qualifier (March 16) before engaging in a mouth-watering clash with India on March 19.

The 27-member Pakistan contingent, comprising 15 players and a dozen officials and support staff, were welcomed by Cricket Association of Bengal officials, with a large number of cheering cricket buffs waving to the visitors and calling out the players by their names.

Afridi waved back to the crowd, before the security officials packed off the team in two buses enroute to the team hotel. Pakistan is scheduled to play New Zealand on March 22 and Australia on March 25 in its remaining Group B fixtures. Mohali will host both the games. The Pakistan government on Friday officially decided to send the cricketers to take part in the ongoing World Twenty20 tournament.

The decision came after Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the Pakistan team will be provided adequate security during its World Twenty20 campaign in India. “Whosoever will come to India will be secured,” Rajnath told reporters in Ghaziabad, near the Indian capital, on Friday.

The team was originally scheduled to depart for India on Tuesday evening. But the departure was delayed by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) as it awaited the report of a three-member team sent to review security arrangements in India.

After the International Cricket Council (ICC) announced on Wednesday that the India-Pakistan match has been shunted out of Dharamsala, the PCB had said on Thursday that the team will be allowed to leave for the World T20 early on Friday. But the team’s departure was further postponed later on Thursday when the Pakistan government insisted on written assurances from the Indian authorities.

The delay has affected the Pakistan team’s preparations for the World T20 as the warm-up game against the Bengal state team, which was scheduled for Saturday, has been cancelled.

Pakistan's women's team also arrived in India on Saturday; it touched down on Chennai in the night.

(With inputs from agencies)

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