Pakistan media’s reaction to a statement made by the cricket team’s captain should come as little surprise; it has happened before and it will happen again in the future.
Under attack in Pakistan for stating that cricketers from his country are loved more in India, captain Shahid Afridi on Tuesday sought to douse the fire by saying that he did not intend to demean his nation and was merely trying to give a “positive message” by showing respect to the fans of India.
In an audio statement posted by the Pakistan Cricket Board on its Twitter handle, Afridi has clarified that he was not trying to belittle Pakistani fans during the now infamous post-arrival press conference ahead of the ICC World Twenty20.
“I am not just captain of the Pakistan cricket team but I am representing all the Pakistani people here and I think if one looks at my comment in a positive way then it is obvious that I did not mean to say that anybody else would matter more to me than Pakistani fans. My whole identity comes from Pakistan,” Afridi said.
Afridi has been criticised for the statement made on Sunday with former captain Javed Miandad calling it shameful. The flamboyant all-rounder has also been issued a legal notice in Lahore for his comment.
“I was asked a question by a journalist and I tried to answer it in a positive way because I know whatever I say would be heard all across the world. So I was merely trying to give a positive message to the rest of the world that we enjoy a lot when we play in India.
“Whether it is Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis or Inzamam ul Haq, they will also say that they get a lot of respect here because cricket is literally worshipped in India. You can even ask Imran bhai, cricket is a religion here. I merely gave a diplomatic statement so that the message that goes to the world is that cricket brings people together and Indo-Pak relations have always got a boost because of cricket,” Afridi clarified.
“I think I made a positive statement on behalf of my country but if somebody looks at it negatively, he would get a negative message. But my intention was positive,” he added.
Pakistan, who arrived later than scheduled in India owing to security concerns, will open their World T20 campaign against Bangladesh in Kolkata on Wednesday.
Afridi missed practice
The Pakistan captain missed training session on Tuesday but head coach Waqar Younis however said it’s nothing to do with the controversy and added: “It’s not like that. He was not feeling well in the morning… So it’s better to take rest. It’s hot and humid out there.”
Later, giving an update on Afridi, Pakistani team manager Intikhab Alam said he was running fever in the morning. “He over trained himself yesterday. He’s had slight fever in the morning and we opted to give him rest,” Alam said as the rest of the Pakistani camp trained for more than two hours in the morning.
Earlier Afridi was served legal notice
The all rounder was on Monday dragged to court for “committing treason” and “hurting sentiments” of Pakistanis, a day after his statement that the national cricket team was “loved more in India” than in Pakistan.
A senior lawyer served a legal notice on the 36-year-old Pakistan T20 cricket captain for his statement in India on Sunday ahead of the World T20 tournament. “I have served a legal notice on Shahid Afridi and ‘de facto’ chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board Najam Sethi for their love for India over Pakistan. I have also written to PCB Chairman Shahryar Khan to launch an inquiry into the statement of Afridi in India,” advocate Azhar Saddique said while sharing the contents of the legal notice with PTI.
“Afridi has let down the whole Pakistani nation for expressing more love for India than Pakistan. In fact he has committed treason. Now who will ensure that Pakistani team will play against India in Kolkata in T20 match to win,” said Saddique.
Asked about the damages he is claiming in his lawsuit, Saddique said, “My notice is (just) to tell Afridi that he has hurt the sentiments of Pakistanis and for PCB to take action against him”.