KOLKATA, March 12: The Pakistan cricket team finally set foot on Indian soil on Saturday evening amidst tight security to take part in the World Twenty20.
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., ending weeks of uncertainty over their arrival.
The visitors travelled from Lahore to Abu Dhabi and rested there for some time before boarding an Etihad flight to reach the city, where they will be staying for around a week to tune up for the big tournament, play a warm-up game and then engage in a mouth-watering clash with India on March 19.
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 cricket team will be provided adequate security during their 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 they 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.
Earlier, the Pakistan squad including 15 players, 12 officials and support staff reached the Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore amidst tight security and boarded a flight hours after the Pakistan government finally gave the PCB the green signal to fly to India to take part in the ICC event.
Due to a long stay in Abu Dhabi the squad reached Kolkata later this evening.
Pakistan squad: Shahid Afridi (capt), Muhammad Hafeez, Sharjeel Khan, Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Akmal, Khalid Latif, Shoaib Malik, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Anwar Ali, Emad Wasim, Muhammad Nawaz, Wahab Riaz, Muhammad Aamir, Muhammad Irfan, Muhammad Sami. � Agencies