Pakistan return home after disastrous tour

One-day captain Shahid Afridi on Friday called Pakistan’s scandal-marred tour of England the “most difficult” of his career as the team staged a low-key return home after four gruelling months away.

Coach Waqar Younis also conceded that it had been a punishing tour “on and off the field” after corruption investigations engulfed the side, triggering a barrage of condemnation from the press and public.

Afridi flew in to Karachi with three team-mates while the rest of the squad arrived in Lahore in the early hours, with a phalanx of gun-toting policemen escorting the players out of both airports.

“It was tough because of the controversies and became very difficult to cope with, because every time we went out of the hotel people passed remarks against us,” Afridi told a scrum of reporters in Karachi.

“Because of the controversies on the tour, it was the most difficult tour of my 14-year career,” the explosive all-rounder added.

The tour ended on Wednesday with Pakistan losing the one-day series 3-2. England also took the Test and Twenty20 series.

Afridi said team unity had remained intact despite the storm of controversy.

“The best part of the whole tour was that the players showed unity even in difficult times and gave a good fight in the one-day series against England,” he said, while also hinting at a return to Test cricket.

“I will think about it and if the team needs it, I may consider playing the Test series against South Africa,” he said, ahead of the Proteas encounters starting late next month on neutral turf in the United Arab Emirates.

Waqar, one of Pakistan’s greatest bowlers, said the tour’s length had taken its toll.

“If you take into account the tour to Sri Lanka before we went to England, it was four months on the trot and the tour of England was difficult both on and off the field,” the coach said on his arrival in Lahore.

“We had successes against Australia which were pleasing,” Waqar added.

“But because of the controversies it was tough against England, because you need to go to extra effort to gee up the players when you see a report in the newspaper every other day.”