Oval heroes get unprecedented welcome


Salahuddin Haider


Young and enterprising Sarfaraz Khan, carrying the coveted Champions Trophy, which he and team members won for Pakistan in England on June 18, was given a hero’s welcome on return home early this morning, but looked humble, when he was received at Karachi airport by Governor Zubair, Mayor Waseem AKhtar, and provincial ministers, and then when he was given a rousing reception on reaching home after a great deal of time with fans and friends.
The Sehri time for the 24th Roza was just over when his aircraft, carrying him and new find Rouman Raees, landed at Jinnah International after long flight from London via Dubai, was indeed remain engrossed in his memory for a long,long time to come, for the kind of reception they received was indeed historic and tremendous.
They both deserved, Sarfaraz as captain for being cool and calculated his approach and injecting a fighting spirit in a team that had lost the opening match of the 8-nation tournament, and was considered underdogs by being at the lowest rung of the ladder, but rising to pinnacle of glory in the end and winning laurels for the crescent and star flag of Pakistan.
Governor Zubair, Mayor Waseem Akhtar, and several of the Sindh ministers were right at the gate of the aircraft . The governor embraced Sarfaraz, patted him on the back, and bouquets were presented to the two. While Safaraz was lauded for his turning a new leaf in the cricket history book of Pakistan, young Rooman Raees, impressed with his tremendous bowling in the debutant match in which he took two wickets, and was hailed by critics as find of the year.
Bouquets were presented to them on behalf of the DG rangers, and several others, but slight mismanagement was also witnessed at the security zone of the airport, where cricket lovers had somehow managed to sneak in. The governor and the mayor of Karachi were kept waiting for sometime till they got themselves liberated from the selfie makers who had surrounded them , denying them space to move out to the waiting crowd outside the terminal building.
The crowd broke into prolonged applause, waving Pakistan flags, and chanting Pakistan Zindabad slogans when they saw the proud Pakistan captain holding the trophy in his hand. Fire crackers and fireworks were there too.
But the jubilation was at its peak, enormous in fact when Sarfaraz reached his house in the district central. He managed with great difficulty to enter his house to be with the family, but the crowd, huge in size, kept chanting outside the premises.Sarfaraz was finally obliged to come onto the gallery and thank his fans. At the airport he was presented with Sindhi cap and “Ajrak”, the hall mark of respect and esteem according to Sindhi tradition.
For more than two hours, the crowd kept chanting zindabad slogans, but governor acknowledged that a Karachi boy had brought laurels for the country. He said that he would request the chairman of the Pakistan cricket board to give chances to greater number of Karachi youngsters. Who had impressed their performance and deserved to be in the national squad.
Bowing in humility to his Creator, Sarfaraz thanked God Almighty for blessing him with honour and esteem. “ I have nothing to say but express gratitude to Allah for His kindness”, he told the media on arrival.
Agencies add:
Messages such as “Champion of champions. Team Pakistan! Welcome back after such a tremendous victory” were emblazoned on banners erected at Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore, along with a picture of the team carrying the trophy.
Television footage showed supporters chanting “Pakistan Zindabad” when four of the players entered the public area at 2:30 am.
Player-of-the-tournament Hasan Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Babar Azam, and Ahmed Shehzad were presented with bouquets by Punjab provincial ministers.
Pakistan stunned the cricketing world on Sunday when it crushed archrival and hot favourite India by 180 runs in the final. Ali took three wickets in the final and finished as the tournament’s leading bowler with 13 wickets in five matches.
Fans surrounded Ali’s car and showered it with rose petals, while the fast bowler smiled and waved from inside the vehicle.
A similar reception was accorded to man-of-the-match in the final, Fakhar Zaman, who smashed 114 off 106 balls, when he landed in Peshawar.
Zaman was showered with petals and fans gathered outside Peshawar airport changed “Pakistan Zinbabad”.
Speaking to reporters from his home in Mardan, Zaman said it was his dream to score a century in the final against India, adding the team had decided in a meeting before the final that they would play aggressively.
Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan and Junaid Khan arrived in Islamabad where a fleet of policemen gave a guard of honour to the three players at the airport.
“I wanted to play for the team, not for myself. The first priority is to make the team win,” Imad Wasim said speaking to reporters.
“Sarfaraz bhai is an excellent captain, I have been playing with him for ten years,” he added.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Gujranwala, Capt. (R) Muhammad Asif and other high officials presented red carpet welcome to cricketer Haris Sohail at Sialkot International Airport.
He presented a bouquet of flowers to Haris Sohail. Punjab Police Band aired special songs and people presented dance on the occasion. A large number of people had gathered outside airport to welcome Haris Sohail.