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06 December 2023

Pakistan coach backs Afridi on India love row

Pakistani cricketer Shahid Afridi speaks to the media in Karachi on October 5, 2015. (AFP)


Coach Waqar Younis stood by his skipper Shahid Afridi Tuesday over his declaration that Pakistan's cricketers receive more love in India than back home, saying critics should stop stirring up trouble.

Former Pakistani captain Javed Miandad has been at the forefront of the outrage over Afridi's comments at the weekend shortly after the team's delayed arrival for the World Twenty20 being played in India.

But Younis said Afridi's critics were making something out of nothing and he should not be criticised for wearing his heart on his sleeve.

"This is something he felt. It's his emotions," the former fast bowler told reporters in Kolkata on the eve of Pakistan's opening match in the World Twenty20 against Bangladesh.

"I believe we should leave it at that rather than creating a controversy out of nothing. We are here to play cricket, to beat teams," he said ahead of Pakistan's opening rubber against Bangladesh.

"My message to the boys is just leave everything behind. This is about playing some quality cricket and playing for the nation."

In a press conference in Kolkata on Sunday, Afridi said that Pakistan had always enjoyed playing in India and "have been loved by Indians crowds more than crowds back home in Pakistan."

The comments raised eyebrows as Pakistan's build-up to the tournament has been embroiled in controversy over whether they would be allowed to travel to arch-rivals India.

They agreed to take the trip only after negotiations with India over security arrangements and the shifting of their match against the hosts to Kolkata from Dharamsala.

Diplomatic tensions between the two countries have meant that the two teams have not played any bilateral series for more than three years, and their rivalry is restricted to multi-national tournaments such as the World T20.

India's batting great Sunil Gavaskar on Tuesday said Afridi's comments would help dull the hostility of the usually raucous home crowd at Eden Gardens, the venue for the much-awaited India-Pakistan tie on March 19.

"Emotions run high whenever India play Pakistan," Gavaskar told the NDTV news network.

"He (Afridi) said nice things - maybe you need it, maybe you don't. It will help as far as the crowd is concerned. It has ensured the crowds won't be overly hostile to him and the Pakistani team."