KARACHI, LAHORE, ISLAMABAD, SIALKOT, PESHAWAR, June 20 (SABAH): Players of Pakistan cricket team returned home Tuesday to a hero’s welcome after winning the ICC Champions Trophy 2017.
The victorious cricketers arrived amid tight security in the wee hours of Tuesday, and were greeted with thousands of joyous fans who chanted patriotic songs and welcomed the players with garlands.
A young Pakistan team stunned the world and created history on Sunday, thrashing an in-form and star-studded Indian side by 180 runs in the Champions Trophy finale at The Oval.
Players returned separately to their hometowns after unavailability of tickets barred them from boarding a flight together.
Captain Sarfraz Ahmed and pacer Rumman Raees landed in Karachi, four cricketers including Babar Azam and Hasan Ali arrived in Lahore, while Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan reached Islamabad.
Faheem Ashraf, Babar Azam, Ahmad Shahzad along with Player of the Tournament Hasan Ali landed at Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore, where they were presented with flower bouquets and showered with rose petals.
Hundreds of fans gave Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed a hero´s welcome as he arrived home carrying the Champions Trophy early on Tuesday. Men, women and children packed Karachi airport as Sarfraz returned from England.
Sarfraz held up the trophy to loud cheers and chants of “Long live Sarfraz!” as a police band played patriotic songs nearby.
“(We won) thanks to Allah and the prayers of the whole nation,” Sarfraz said in brief comments as he jostled his way through the crowd of well-wishers.
Senior local officials also turned up to greet the captain before he was whisked away under escort by police commandos along with team-mate Rumman Raees. Mayor Karachi Waseem Akhtar and Governor Sindh Muhammad Zubair greeted the winning captain and also presented the traditional gift of Sindhi Topi and Ajrak.
“This was a young team,” Sarfraz said. “Nine boys were playing an ICC event for the first time and four to five boys were in the team for the first time, so I think it is a very good sign for the youngsters.
“Fakhar Zaman, Rumman Raees, Shadab Khan, Fahim Ashraf — all new boys and it is very good sign for Pakistan cricket the way Hasan Ali played,” he continued. “This was the whole team’s effort.”
The celebrations did not end once he reached his residential block in central Karachi, adorned with colourful lights and Pakistan flags, where fans climbed on rooftops and balconies to watch him return.
Sarfraz came out on the balcony with the trophy and showed it off to fans, waving and making the victory sign with two fingers as the crowds outside threw rose petals. He also snapped selfies of the memorable reception.
Speaking to reporters after arriving at his house, Sarfaraz said that the team’s victory in the Champions Trophy final will be remembered for years to come.
“We have created a legacy. I believe this victory will not be forgotten, it will always be remembered,” Sarfaraz said.
He added that the team would start preparing for the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) World Cup 2019 in due time but right now “we will enjoy this victory”.
“Our seniors have performed excellently in important matches,” the captain said in response to questions about the performance of the national team’s young talent.
“It is a good sign for Pakistan that the young players performed well,” Sarfaraz said, adding that 9 of the players were participating in the Champions Trophy for the first time.
“Winning the trophy was difficult,” Sarfaraz said, adding, “It was a team effort”.
The captain told media the players had initially come under a lot of pressure and gave complete credit to the team management for motivating them.” This was a big victory for me, for the team and for the country,” he said.
Fans also surrounded Rumman Raees, who impressed all in his only match against England in the semi-final with two wickets.
Speaking to media surrounded by his jubilant family, Rumman said he was over the moon and could not express his happiness in words.
Young batting sensation Fakhar Zaman arrived in Peshawar and Haris Sohail arrived in Sialkot from Dubai.
In an interview to a private TV channel, Player of the Final Fakhar Zaman, who thrashed Indian bowling with his maiden ODI hundred, said he had resolved to score big no matter what.
“My heart sank when I got out to that [Bumrah] delivery. But when the umpire called it a no-ball, I was so happy. I decided to make the most of it,” Fakhar said, smiling.
“I enjoyed scoring against Ashwin the most. Both the teams had a good fighting spirit,” he added. He was received by his brother, father along with large number of fans at Peshawar airport.
Imad Wasim, speaking to reporters after his arrival, said that the team played as a unit and every player gave his best for the sake of the team.