Touched by the rousing reception Pakistan received after they arrived in Kolkata to take part in the ICC World T20, 2016, Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi had warm words for Indian fans and stated that he does not believe there is a security threat in the country.
“The amount of cricket I’ve enjoyed in India, I haven’t had that in many other countries. I am in the last stages of my career and I can say that the love I have got in India is something that I will always remember. We have not got this much love even from Pakistan,” Afridi said. “There are cricket-loving people here, much like in Pakistan. Overall, I’ve enjoyed playing in India a lot.”
Afridi’s team-mate, Shoaib Malik, who is married to Indian tennis player Sania Mirza, said that he is happy to be in the country. “Firstly, I would like to thank the Indian government. The security is very good. My wife is from India and I come to India a lot. I have never faced any security issue. I don’t really see any difference between Pakistani people and the Indians. We eat the same food, we speak the same language. I don’t really see any difference. I am very happy to be in India. I have always got a lot of love from people and from media.”
Pakistan men’s and women’s teams were allowed to travel for the mega-event only after firm assurances of their security from the Police Commissioner of Kolkata, Rajeev Kumar, and West Bengal’s state government.
Initially, the big clash between India and Pakistan was scheduled to take place in Dharamsala on March 19. However, due to protests by Himachal Pradesh’s ex-serviceman and the Chief Minister of the state, Virbhadra Singh, not assuring adequate security for the players, the marquee game had to be shifted.
When the media asked Afridi about Pakistan’s government taking more time to clear the squad to travel to India, he replied by saying that he wouldn’t like to discuss politics. “Whatever decision the state takes, we are behind them. We are cricketers and not politicians. Sport always brings two nations together. Can there be anything better than cricket? I think we should keep politics away from it.”
Commenting on whether Pakistan would be able to maintain their focus in the backdrop of the drama that happened before their arrival, Afridi said: “I think it’s nothing special. We were practising over there. We think about that. Physically and mentally, we were ready (to go). International cricket is all about pressure. The team which handles pressure well wins in the end.”
So will it be a case of India’s batting v Pakistan’s bowling when the two teams face off on Saturday (March 19). “That’s been the case for the last 60 years,” he quipped.