KARACHI: The triumphant cricketers of Pakistan’s team returned home on Tuesday morning to a rousing welcome after routing arch-rivals India by 180-run at The Oval to lift its maiden ICC Champions Trophy.
Hundreds of fans stayed up late to welcome home members of the national cricket team returning after their historic win against arch-rivals India at London’s Oval Ground.
Crowds had gathered at airports in Karachi and Lahore early Tuesday morning, eagerly awaiting the return of the champions.
Fans decorated the entire street and house of captain Sarfaraz Ahmed who arrived with fast bowler Rumman Raees at 4:45 am with the trophy that Pakistan had won for the first time.
Some even climbed on rooftops and balconies to watch the captain return home. They had waited through the night to welcome their hero, with some carrying children on their shoulders to get a glimpse of the winning captain.
Fans had also brought a special 70-foot long national flag and carried it in the street as Sarfaraz drove home in a special convoy provided by the provincial government.
Both cricketers were presented with traditional Sindhi shawls and caps at the lounge as fans, and airport officials didn’t miss an opportunity to take selfies with their heroes.
Sarfaraz held up the trophy to loud cheers and chants of “Long live Sarfaraz!” as a police band played patriotic songs nearby.
“(We won) thanks to Allah and the prayers of the whole nation,” Sarfaraz said in brief comments as he jostled his way through the crowd of well-wishers.
It took Sarfaraz nearly half an hour to enter his house once his car drove into the street as fans clamoured for photos and a glimpse of their national team captain and police tried to clear the way.
Sarfaraz waved the trophy from the balcony of his house as he was showered with rose petals, much to the delight of his fans who were chanting “Pakistan Zindabad.”
“This is your trophy and we won it just because of you,” he said.
Raees said he didn’t sleep for two days because of all the excitement following the win.
“I dedicate the win to the whole nation and we enjoyed the victory a lot, congratulations to the whole country,” Raees said.
Mayor of Karachi Waseem Akhtar, Governor of Sindh Muhammad Zubair and Sindh Sports Minister Bux Mahar had also turned up to greet the captain at the airport before he was whisked away under escort by police commandos.
Provincial governor Mohammad Zubair said he was proud of “son of Sindh” Ahmed and hoped the victory will ignite more energy into youngsters playing the sport.
“He is the son of Sindh province and we are here to accord him warm welcome,” Zubair said.
“We have not hosted any international team for the last 8 or 9 years, Pakistani players are barred from playing in the IPL (Indian Premier League), but I’m sure with this victory our players will get more opportunities.”
Four members of the national cricket team, Babar Azam, Hassan Ali, Ahmed Shahzad, and Faheem Ashraf landed at the Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore in the wee hours of Tuesday where they were treated to guard of honor by a police band.
Provincial ministers Rana Mashood, Mujtaba Shuja, and Bilal Yaseen, were among the people who accorded the triumphant cricketers a warm welcome and presented them bouquets.
Whereas Shadab Khan and Imad Waseem arrived at the Islamabad airport and Haris Suhail at the Sialkot airport to the cheers of crowds.
Fakhar Zaman landed at the Peshawar airport where he was accorded a rousing welcome. A large crowd of cricket enthusiasts cheered the champion opener and tried to jostle their way to take selfies with their hero.
The remaining players of the team including Muhammad Amir, Junaid Khan, Muhammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik and Azhar Ali are staying in London and expected to return home soon.