A very gracious Shahid Afridi not only kept his cool for a better part of the semifinal clash with India in the recently concluded ICC Cricket World Cup but was a beacon of cordiality when he congratulated the Indian Eleven for outplaying them. Even after he landed in Pakistan he was calm and requested his nation to look forward from the great experience his young team garnered in its World Cup campaign. So, what happened in a matter of hours when he gleefully confessed to a lady reporter that his team suffered at the negativity spewed by the Indian media and the malevolence of Indian players is what makes them greater sportsmen?
Needless to say Afridi’s interview triggered off a domino effect across India. From social media networks, to mainstream newspapers and television news debates just about everyone was more shocked than surprised at Afridi’s two-faced statements. Was he being a sore loser or was there something else to his outburst? We have said in the past that there was immense strain on the two neighbors when they clashed at Mohali but from the looks of it one thing was clear–the team that lost was the first to crack under pressure. But the fact of the matter remains that had India lost the match the emotions of the Indian fan would have compelled them to do crazy things but the eleven Indian players who played the match wouldn’t have resorted to the two lines that Afridi towed.
Afridi later told an Indian news channel during a live interview that he has been ‘quoted out of context’, which is the oft repeated answer to squirm out of any tight spot. The first time around he blasted Pakistani media for making every clash with India a matter of national pride, a war of sorts while the truth is that Pakistan loves all things Indians right from films to songs to television soaps and the second time around he said that Indian media is negative and Indian players aren’t as large-hearted as they were.
Both these interviews are out there and Afridi can see them a million times like he told the Indian news anchor that he’d like to see the videos again to see what he said but the truth is as simple as this–he’s damned if he speaks and damned if he doesn’t.
There has been great criticism of the manner in which Pakistan played against India and perhaps with the passage of time relevant questions would have haunted Afridi and other senior players like Younis Khan. So could this be Afridi’s ploy to ensure that everyone gets busy with his tirade and forgets asking him about the lives they showered on Sachin Tendulkar, his decision to delay the batting power or bat so low down the other that it felt like he wasn’t even playing. With the Indian Premier League (IPL) kicking off in a matter of days no one in India would be interested how this issue progresses and perhaps that is what Afridi would be aiming for. One look at how India outplayed Australia, Pakistan and then Sri Lanka in order to become the World Champions and no one in the right mind would question Afridi and his team irrespective of the bizarre tactics employed by them during the semifinal.
The thing with Pakistan when they play India is that ever since the frenzied six that Javed Miandad smashed off Chetan Sharma’s last ball in the final of the Australasia Cup in 1986 at Sharjah, everyone’s hoping for a miracle. In the last 19 years India and Pakistan have squared off five times in World Cup matches and with each victory the memory of that six fades away. Match fixing, substance abuse and a bunch of other blemishes have marred Pakistan’s image in the world of cricket. Can you imagine any Indian Minister ‘warning’ the team of match fixing hours before their biggest challenge? It’s true that they have more prodigious talent than India but somewhere the Indian system, flawed as it may be imparts a greater sense of professionalism unto its players that transforms them into better players.
Even if Afridi had not said what he said things would have been fine. This Shahid Afridi double talk is nothing more than lip service for a nation that is bereft of things to look forward to; this is a desperate ploy on a talented cricketer’s part to divert the attention of his countrymen till they ignore him once they start rooting for Indian city based teams in IPL!