KARACHI: Jeering fans yelling "Go to hell!" gave a stormy welcome on Wednesday to Pakistani cricketers returning home from their humiliating early exit from the World Cup.
Four players, including the swashbuckling all-rounder Shahid Afridi, landed at the Karachi airport and were pilloried for the team's shock loss to Ireland that was followed a day later by the unsolved murder of coach Bob Woolmer in Jamaica.
Captain Inzamam-ul-Haq and six other teammates arrived later in Lahore, but left through a cargo exit, according to an airport official, dodging dozens of waiting reporters.
In Karachi, about 200 people who had gathered at the airport taunted Afridi, a mercurial batsman, with chants of "Afridi! Sell lentils!" and "Deserter, where are you going?" and marched behind him as dozens of police escorted him to a waiting car.
"Go to hell!" some in the crowd yelled as Afridi, wearing dark sunglasses, got into the car and drove away. The player, one of the most marketable stars in this cricket-crazy nation, made no response.
Vice-captain Younis Khan was given a similarly derisive welcome on his return through Karachi on Monday, and took offence at one fan shouting that he should ride around the city on a donkey.
Afridi returned on a flight with leg-spinner Danish Kaneria, fast bowler Mohammed Sami and wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal.
Akmal was waiting inside the airport to catch a connecting flight, but the crowd chanted "Shame! shame!" as Kaneria emerged, so police took him back inside. He and Sami were later spirited away from the airport through another exit.
Pakistan, which won the World Cup in 1992, suffered the worst upset in the tournament's 32-year history, when on March 17 it lost by three wickets to Ireland, a side of part-timers. That defeat sent Pakistan crashing out of the competition.
Speaking to an Associated Press reporter inside the airport terminal, Afridi and Akmal revealed their dismay at the loss, compounded by Woolmer's death a day later.
"We were very disturbed after losing in the World Cup and after the death of Bob Woolmer the next day we suffered mental tension," Akmal said. "Pray for us." AP