The Pakistan cricket team, which had a highly creditable Test as well as One-day series in the last 50 days, made a quiet exit today (April 18, 2005) with none of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) officials coming to the airport to see them off.
The cricketers, who put up a splendid show to draw the three-match Test series 1-1 besides winning the One-dayers 4-2, left for Pakistan in two batches.
Five players including Shahid Afridi left for Karachi in the first group at around noon while Inzamam-ul-Haq, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Shaharyar Khan, 10 other cricketers, coach Bob Woolmer and the support staff took the plane to Lahore about three hours later.
There was hardly any security in place for the players at the airport with only one sharp-shooter atop a building keeping a watch on the surroundings.
As soon as Inzamam and others got down from the bus, four gun-totting security personnel escorted them into the airport tarmac even though the small crowd, which was unaware that the team was coming till the last minute, gathered at the place managed to get quite close to the visitors.
The PCB chief as well as the players declined to speak to the waiting media.
But earlier in the team hotel, just before leaving for the airport, opener Salman Butt summed up the mood of his teammates, who were expected to get a rousing reception back home.
"It was a fabulous tour. A real memorable one. We came here under a lot of pressure and played with it. But definitely we have proved a point or two with our performance in the last 50 days," Butt said.
"A tour of India is always a tough tour. We had come to the series from another tough tour of Australia. So the team is really happy with its performance," said the opener, who had an ordinary Test series but made amends in the One-dayers by coming up with some invaluable knocks.
Another player, who would remember the tour for long, is Kamran Akmal, who in the company of Abdul Razzaq defied the Indians for almost a day to ensure a draw for his side in the first Test in Mohali.
Though he could not reproduce his brilliance in the subsequent innings, his knock gave his side the belief that they could match the formidable Indians with an inexperienced side.
"We enjoyed a lot in India. The hospitality was fine. The series was very good for us in every sense," said the wicketkeeper-batsman.
"It's been special for me. I will cherish the memory for long."