Afridi’s statement will ensure less hostility towards Pakistan: Gavaskar

Published March 15, 2016
Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi reacts as he watches a practice match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. — AFP
Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi reacts as he watches a practice match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. — AFP

KOLKATA: Former Indian captain Sunil Gavaskar believes Shahid Afridi’s recent statement may turn out to be a stroke of genius that will ensure less hostility towards the Pakistan team when they play at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.

“Emotions always run high when there is a question of Pakistan and India,” Gavaskar told NDTV.

“What Shahid Afridi said, he has obviously got reactions in Pakistan, but I look at it as a good way to ensure less hostility towards the Pakistan team.”

Pakistan’s Twenty20 skipper came under fire for his comments at a press conference in Kolkata in which he said, “we are more loved in India than in Pakistan”.

The comments drew sharp criticism in Pakistan, with some former players condemning the skipper for “degrading his countrymen”.

But for Gavaskar, this may have been strategic move by the Pakistan captain to win over the Eden Gardens crowd.

“You say nice things about Indian public; maybe you mean it, maybe you don’t mean it. But what it will do, it will certainly help as far as the crowd is concerned.

“The crowd will not be overly hostile to Afridi and the Pakistani team. That can actually work well for Pakistan,” said the 66-year-old Indian batting legend.

Gavaskar, who averaged a prolific 51.12 in 125 Tests for India, said sometimes playing in a hostile environment could do wonders for a team.

“It can work sometimes and you can actually lift your game to such an extent that you want to silence the hostile crowd,” he said.

“Or sometimes it can have the opposite effect where you just get so overwhelmed by the hostility that you don’t play your natural game and end up playing into the crowd’s hand.”

The former Indian captain termed Afridi’s statement as “a very fine way to win the Eden crowd on their side”.

But he added that Afridi’s statement might be sincere and reflected his experience of playing in the first edition of the Indian Premier League.

“Afridi is somebody who speaks his heart, he doesn’t mince his words and he probably was speaking from his experience of playing in India,” said Gavaskar.

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