Tue. Jun 25th, 2024


NEW DELHI: Pakistan’s premier pacer, Haris Rauf, couldn’t hide his excitement as he stepped into the main nets at the Hyderabad Cricket Association ground. He commented, “Zabardast. Maza aa gaya”, in response to the warm reception his team received at the airport, a mere 12 hours prior.
The fervent passion of Indian cricket fans is undeniable, and it came as no shock when they chanted the name of Pakistan’s skipper, Babar Azam, at the Hyderabad airport.
In what marked Pakistan’s return to India after a seven-year hiatus, the perpetual tensions between the nations seemed momentarily forgotten as fans were left in awe of Babar and his teammates. Within hours of their arrival, the Pakistan cricket team became a trending topic in India.
While Babar Azam clearly emerged as the fans’ favourite, the entire Pakistan squad was overwhelmed by the unexpected welcome. Except for Mohammad Nawaz and Salman Agha, it was the first time the rest of the squad had set foot on Indian soil.

A team source revealed, “We did expect people to turn up at the ground but a proper welcome at the airport from fans, we did not see that coming. They had lined up for the team. It was wonderful to witness that, even the players got emotional about it.”
Babar Azam and Shaheen Afridi shared their emotions via Insta stories upon reaching their heavily guarded team hotel in Banjara Hills. Babar wrote, “Overwhelmed with the love and support here in Hyderabad,” while Shaheen added, “great welcome thus far.”
Despite the tight schedule and awareness of the impending challenge, as many as 10 Pakistan players, including two travelling reserves, eagerly hit the ground for an optional training session just 12 hours after their arrival. After the warm-up, Babar Azam and Iftikhar Ahmed were the first batters to grace the nets, facing the fierce pace duo of Shaheen Afridi and the fit-again Haris Rauf.

Hasan Ali, making a comeback into the team after Naseem Shah’s injury, found his rhythm under the watchful eye of bowling coach Morne Morkel. The pace trio even shared light-hearted moments with the local net bowlers provided by the Hyderabad Cricket Association.
Despite diplomatic tensions, the camaraderie between cricketers from India and Pakistan shone through as Haris Rauf showed interest in India’s cricketing structure and discovered the common Hyderabad connection with rival pacer Mohammad Siraj.
Pakistan’s dietary plan in India reflects the unavailability of beef for all participating teams. The team will rely on chicken, mutton, and fish for their daily protein intake. The menu includes grilled lamb chops, mutton curry, the popular butter chicken, and grilled fish. For carbohydrates, they have requested steamed basmati rice, spaghetti in Bolognese sauce, a favourite of the legendary Shane Warne, and vegetarian pulao. And for their cheat meals, the famous Hyderabadi biryani awaits.
As Pakistan prepares for a nearly two-week stay in India, their initial experiences, including the warm reception from fans and a productive training session, promise a memorable first trip for Babar Azam and his team, regardless of what unfolds on the field in the upcoming World Cup.
(With inputs from PTI)


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