Thatscricket - ODI Series - India~~s tour of Pakistan- Security guards outnumber fans in tour opener

Published: Saturday, October 19, 2002, 20:54 [IST]
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Lahore:India began their long-awaited cricket tour of Pakistan before empty galleries, with security personnel outnumbering fans.

Only an estimated 1,000-odd fans turned up at the 24,500-capacity Gaddafi stadium in this eastern city on Thursday to watch the tourists play a One-day practice match against Pakistan 'A'.

Not even the prospect of seeing the much-vaunted Indian batting line-up succeeded in enticing the crowds - much to the embarrassment of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).

But those who did make their way to the stadium - named after Libyan leader Moamar Gaddafi - were treated to a scintillating display by the Indians, who hammered 335 for six from their 50 overs after being put in to bat.

Master batsman Sachin Tendulkar blasted 76 off 82 balls and Virender Sehwag hit 75 off 68, before Rahul Dravid cracked an unbeaten 92 that contained 13 boundaries and a six.

Skipper Sourav Ganguly had managed only five runs when he fended a rising ball from Umer Gul back to the bowler - a dismissal sure to please Pakistan's speed king Shoaib Akhtar.

"I have no idea why the people did not turn up," PCB general manager Zakir Khan said.

"The tickets were also reasonably priced at 75 rupees (1.5 dollars) because we wanted the fans to come in huge numbers to enjoy the match. "The reason for the low turn-out perhaps is that Thursday is a working day and school and college examinations are taking place."

But Khan said the scene would change dramatically when the first of five One-day Internationals was played in the southern port city of Karachi on Saturday.

"That game is sold out as will the other four," he said. "Don't jump to conclusions because of the poor turnout. Pakistan is in the grip of cricket fever like never before."

India are scheduled to play five One-dayers and three Tests during their first full tour of Pakistan since 1989.

Meanwhile, the top police official of the eastern state of Punjab said a 2,600-strong security force had been deployed around Lahore to prevent any untoward incident while the Indians were in the city.

Syed Masud Shah, Punjab's Inspector General of police, told reporters his force was not taking any chances even though there were no specific threats against the cricketers.

"We do not expect any trouble at all because the people of Pakistan have waited for almost 15 years for this series to happen and no one will want to spoil the show," Shah said.

"We have told the Indian team they are welcome even to go sightseeing, but they must inform us first so that we can send a police team along. "There have been incidents in Pakistan over the last few years but we have managed to trace the trouble-makers. "This, however, does not mean we can afford to lower our guard."

The Indian team, which arrived on Wednesday, will fly to Karachi on Friday morning ahead of the first One-dayer.

Lahore is scheduled to host the fourth and fifth One-dayers on March 21 and 24 and the second Test from April 5-9.

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