Death threats against Pakistan team alleged

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A new "explanation" has emerged for Pakistan's World Cup quarter-final defeat by India - and it has nothing to do with cricket.

Wasim Akram's side have been keeping a low profile since their return from across the border in the wake of Saturday's 39-run defeat. Wasim did not play at Bangalore because of injury, but some angry Pakistan supporters are still blaming him for the "humiliation".

Effigies have been burnt in the streets and one disillusioned supporter has even called for the captain to be charged with "criminal negligence and cheating the nation". Now, however, fans are being invited to show a little sympathy - and turn their annoyance against the old enemy. According to a report in a Pakistan newspaper, death threats received in Bangalore on Saturday evening may have caused the team to lose.

Quoting an "insider", the article says that Saqlain Mushtaq, the 12th man, was sent on to the field during a drinks break to tell acting captain Aamir Sohail that several menacing messages had been telephoned through to the visitors' dressing-room, along the lines of: "You'll never get out of India if you win." From 84 without loss, Pakistan completely lost their way, starting with Sohail's dismissal to a wild slog.

The Pakistan team may also be targets for their own fans. "I am deeply concerned over the security of my players." Intikhab Alam, the team manager, said. "Wasim Akram's Lahore home was stoned, while quite a few players have received threatening calls. At the moment, I have not asked for special security, but I think it is needed."

The Urdu-language newspaper Jhang reported that angry fans had thrown "brickbats, eggs and tomatoes" at Akram's house. Threatening or abusive calls had been received by Salim Malik and Ijaz Ahmed.

Intikhab said the entire team were upset and demoralised. "They are under tremendous pressure not only because they lost to India but also because they failed to come up to the expectations of their fans," he said.

The team were originally due to fly direct to Lahore from New Delhi but changed plans, apparently fearing a hostile reception at the airport in the Punjab provincial capital. Instead, they flew into Karachi and spent six hours at a hotel before taking a coach to Lahore.