HYDERABAD, India: Pakistan’s cricket team arrived in India on Wednesday under tight security ahead of the seven-week-long World Cup, their first visit to their neighbour since 2016, an AFP photographer said.
Excited crowds, held back by officers, cheered and shouted the team captain’s name Babar Azam, as the Pakistanis arrived at the airport in the southern city of Hyderabad for the ODI tournament which opens on October 5.
India and Pakistan are bitter adversaries with longstanding political tensions. The teams only play cricket against each other in international tournaments, and usually, the matches are staged in third countries.
Skipper Babar Azam has played down the hype of facing their rivals, saying ahead of their travel that the team was “not just going to play against India only”.
The tournament involves 48 matches being played over 46 days at 10 different venues with the final set for November 19.
Pakistan are slated to play two warm-up matches — against New Zealand on September 29 and Australia on October 3 — both in Hyderabad.
But with large crowds expected for a Hindu festival on Friday, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said the first warm-up will be a closed-door match as “per the advice of the local security agencies”.
Pakistan open their World Cup campaign against the Netherlands, before facing arch-rivals India in the over 130,000-seat Ahmedabad Stadium on October 14. India will begin their campaign against Australia on October 8 followed by the hotly-anticipated clash against Pakistan.