ABU DHABI // The Pakistan national cricket team made a quiet entry into the UAE in the early hours of yesterday morning for their "home" series against South Africa, with no fans venturing to Abu Dhabi International Airport to greet their stars.
Bleary-eyed after their overnight journey from Lahore, the team were greeted at 7am by a few local officials and headed straight for their hotel, without any autograph seekers delaying them.
The players must have been happy with that, as none looked in the mood for pleasantries.
No words were exchanged between the players either as they trooped out of the airport together, dressed in their green blazers, straight onto the waiting team bus.
They sat inside the bus, waiting for a couple of minutes, as the local liaison officer made sure the porters had loaded all the luggage and kit bags into an accompanying pick-up. That done, a police car led the convoy to their hotel.
A couple of photographers from local newspapers were waiting for the team's arrival, but their request for a team photograph inside the arrival lounge was flatly turned down.
"You can take photographs as we are walking out," said Intikhab Alam, the team manager.
"It doesn't happen this way, you cannot expect us to stand for photographs," said Shahid Afridi, the limited over team captain.
While the fans failed to make it to the airport for the arrival, they will surely fill the turnstiles at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi for the tour-opener against South Africa, a Twenty20 International, on Tuesday evening.
The proceeds from the match will go towards the relief funds for the victims of the devastating floods in Pakistan, which killed more than 1,600 people and left more than four million homeless.
Another T20 will follow the next day, before the two teams meet in the first of five one-day internationals (ODI) on Friday at the same venue.
The second ODI will also be played in Abu Dhabi on Sunday after which the action will shift to Dubai, with three ODIs and the first Test match being played at the cricket stadium at Dubai Sports City.
The teams will return to Abu Dhabi for the second and final Test of the series, which starts on November 20.
The series here follows a controversy-marred tour of England for Pakistan, where three players - Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer - were suspended by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for their alleged involvement in spot-fixing.
The suspensions followed a sensational expose by the weekly News of the World during their tour of England.
The ICC, after their board meeting in Dubai earlier this month, issued specific directives for the Pakistan Cricket Board to clean up the sport.
As part of those directives, Alam briefed the players on the new code of conduct and the need for discipline during the tour before they got on the plane for Abu Dhabi.
Afridi, meanwhile, has urged his teammates to aim for a series win that would boost their morale ahead of the 50-over World Cup to be played in the subcontinent between February and April next year.