Pakistan coach Waqar Younis defends skipper Afridi's 'love in India' comment
Kolkata: Waqar Younis came out in defence of Shahid Afridi, whose recent "found more love in India" comment has raised a ruckus in Pakistan. Afridi has had to issue a "clarification" on the Pakistan Cricket Board website in an effort to douse the flames.
Among those condeming the Pakistan skipper was former skipper Javed Miandad, who said he "was shocked and hurt". "These cricketers should be ashamed of themselves for saying such a thing. Shame on you," Miandad said on television.
On the eve of their World T20 opener against Bangladesh, Waqar was in a 'move on' mood. "Yes, we had a bit of drama yesterday (Monday)," the Pakistan coach began when his attention was drawn to the fresh controversy.
"I didn't find anything controversial in it (Afridi's comments). It's something he felt; it's his emotions. I believe we should leave it rather than create controversy out of nothing."
Through an audio file posted on the PCB website, Afridi said that he had been "misunderstood". "I've come here not just as skipper of the Pakistan team but as a representative of the entire nation. My statement should be taken positively," he explained.
Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi at Eden Gardens on Sunday. Pic/PTI
"I didn't mean to say that anything was bigger to me than Pakistan; my identity has to do with Pakistan. I just wanted to give a positive message, to let the world know that we enjoy playing in India because cricket's followed with a lot of passion here. Players like Imran Khan and Inzamam too will say that."
Pakistan's arrival had been thrown into uncertainty following political one-upmanship that had forced ICC to shift their match against India from Dharamsala to the Eden Gardens.
Will all these adversely affect Pakistan's performance?
"I hope not. We're here to play cricket; it's better to focus on the game," said the Pakistan coach. "My message to the boys is 'just leave everything behind'. This is about playing quality cricket, about playing for the nation."
Miandad has in the recent past questioned Afridi's inclusion in the national team, and Afridi has been under increasing pressure as his poor form continues.
Waqar is hoping the skipper finds it soon. "You're often just one innings away from form, particularly in T20 cricket. Hope that's what happens in the case of Afridi," said Waqar.