ICC World T20 - Men
Afridi clarifies comments about India
Pakistan captain says he wants to spread positive message as Imran Khan leaps to his defence
15 March 2016, 07:34 AM AEST
Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi have moved to clarify comments he made upon his side's arrival in neighbouring India, which drew scathing criticism from some of his countrymen, notably former skipper Javed Miandad.
Pakistan touched down in India amid high security on Saturday after getting permission from their government to play in the ICC World T20 in their neighbouring country, with whom they share a tense relationship.
The veteran allrounder caused uproar among his countrymen by suggesting the Pakistan team has been "loved by Indian crowds more than crowds back home in Pakistan".
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The comments predictably drew serious backlash from those in Pakistan, particularly from legendary former batsman Miandad, who also recently questioned why Afridi was still in the national side.
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On Monday, Afridi clarified his comments and said he was only trying to send a positive message.
"I am not just the captain of Pakistan’s cricket team I am representing the whole country here," he said. "The one statement I gave recently should be taken as positive.
"I did not mean to say that someone is dear to me more than Pakistan’s people. My identity and everything I have belong to Pakistan.
"I was asked a question here in (the) media and I just wanted to give a positive reply to the people in the world who hear us. I just wanted to say that whenever we are here [in India] we always enjoy (it).
"Even if you ask the former greats such was Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Imran Khan they all will say the same thing. People in India worship cricket and it is like a religion here.
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"I just wanted to give a positive message to the world in a diplomatic way that we people love cricket and want to play it.
"It is the sport that many times has helped India and Pakistan in improving the ties therefore I just wanted to be positive.
"But if someone will take it as a negative comment he will draw a negative conclusion too."
Afridi also found an ally in legendary former Pakistan captain Imran Khan, who led the side to glory at the 1992 World Cup.
"The players get emotional sometimes," Khan said. "He gets a good reception in India and he was just expressing his feelings."
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The Pakistan versus India group match at the World T20 was last week relocated to Kolkata after security concerns in Dharamshala, the original venue,
Attempting to play down the significance of the Pakistan team's arrival in India, Afridi had said: "We are cricketers and not politicians.
"We have always enjoyed playing in India and have been loved by Indian crowds more than crowds back home in Pakistan," he added, with fellow veteran Shoaib Malik reportedly echoing the sentiment.
"Cricket has always brought people together and I think politics should be kept away from cricket."
His comments drew a scathing response from Miandad.
"These cricketers should be ashamed of themselves for saying such a thing. Shame on you," Miandad said on the Aaj TV network.
"What have the Indians given us? Speak the truth even while in India.
"For the last five years what have they given us or done with Pakistan cricket?
"Having served Pakistan cricket for so many years I am shocked and hurt to hear such comments from our players."
India and Pakistan square off in Kolkata this Saturday, March 19.