A day after being shamed by allegations of spot-fixing, the Pakistani team left London for the town of Taunton on Monday — their faces hidden behind the tinted windows of their coach.
The coach carrying the players took off at 1 p.m. local time, a full two-and-a-half hours behind schedule, apparently after a crisis meeting between the players and team management inside their northwest London hotel.
A favourite with visiting cricketers, the Marriot at Swiss Cottage, lying close to the Lord’s cricket ground, drew a scrum of reporters and ordinary Pakistanis on Monday morning — men and women eager to throw questions… or eggs.
As it happened, neither was successful in their mission: the police confiscated a handful of unexploded eggs from angry Pakistanis and the media had to contend with questioning other guests about what the cricketers had been up to.
There was a minor frisson of excitement after rumours that Pakistani manager, Yawar Saeed, might make a statement. The man emerged but, with reporters kept well away from the entrance, managed to slip away briefly to an unknown destination. Some said he had gone to visit the ICC officials, others that he went shopping.
Someone spotted Reg Dickerson, the International Cricket Council’s security expert. Once again, no questions.
Meanwhile, their eggs seized, Pakistani fans outside the hotel were incandescent. It was turning out to be a waste of a Bank Holiday — the nation’s day off.
“It’s a very bad thing… I don’t have words to say,” said one angry man. “Take these players home and hang them in front of the people.” On Sunday evening, when the coach carrying the players emerged from Lord’s after a massive drubbing by England, fans pelted it with tomatoes, shouting “match fixing, hai hai” and “shame on you.”
No such luck on Monday, although a handful of photographers did give the coach a respectable chase on its way to Taunton in western county of Somerset. It was a three-hour drive to the town and the players were meant to have stopped on the way for lunch.
Whether any reporters finally got to the tainted visitors was not immediately known.