Afridi’s googly: How would India react if Dhoni professed love for Pakistan?

Published March 16, 2016
Maybe Afridi, who is almost at the end of his career, actually spoke the truth? And, why should it be surprising?  — AFP
Maybe Afridi, who is almost at the end of his career, actually spoke the truth? And, why should it be surprising? — AFP

Was it a googly or did Afridi hit his own wicket?

“We get more love from Indian fans than at home,” he announced diplomatically or not.

The Indians were left wondering if they should run for cover because wasn’t this the same Afridi who had once accused them of not being big-hearted?

Also read: Fan saves the day after Afridi is unable to pay for meal at Auckland airport

Javed Miandad roared, calling it a crying shame and perhaps just stopped short of asking Afridi to become Adnan Sami’s new neighbour. But even Miandad’s sharp mind may have under-estimated Afridi’s most recent flip-flop.

Former Indian captain Sunil Gavaskar, though, seems to think it’s a masterstroke, to temper down the hostility of the hysterical sub-continental fans ahead of the big clash on the 19th.

To be honest, animosity is not how I would describe the atmosphere in most Indo-Pak matches. Instead, both countries wearing their patriotism on their sleeves bellow emotions that are a mix of ego, prestige and joy.

I have lost my voice shouting during an India-Pak World Cup match, but it was more for India to win than for Pakistan to lose.

Explore: Should there be no Indian cricket fans in Pakistan?

But to expect anything else from the crowd, especially in a World Cup encounter, is unrealistic. A match in Pakistan would be no different and sometimes the pressure that we, the fans, put on our respective teams manifests into ugly scenes.

Two Pakistani hockey players were suspended and the team had to apologise after their raucous reaction to beating India in a heart-skipping Champions Trophy Semi-final in Dec 2014.

The thrill of beating your biggest rival on their home ground is unrivalled.

So it is also the law of the Indo-Pak hood, that fans of one team will always wait to hit a ‘mauke pe chauka’ when they can and Indians grabbed the opportunity with both hands after Afridi’s startling remarks.

Also read: Ick, he's back: 'Mauka' man Skypes with Afridi in new ad

Twitter was predictably abuzz like this gem from @rameshsrivats, ‘maybe Afridi is under the impression that all those hindi movies called Shahid are actually about him.’

But there was support from Indian fans as well.

@SujBharath tweeted, ‘I am an Indian and yes I am a fan of Afridi..’

Despite the general sentiment, Afridi had support in Pakistan too.

@NamkeenJalebi tweeted, ‘we say India is intolerant, what we have done with Afridi post his statement..’

Or just a pinch of rationality which emotional fans on both sides easily skip,

@AhmedDrafts ‘Dear Pakistan fans when Afridi said that he sees more love in India than in Pakistan prove him wrong by showing more love than hatred’.

Many known faces have come out in support of perhaps the last iconic Pakistani player of his generation. Coach Waqar Younis says he sees nothing controversial in these statements.

Actor Fawad Khan points out how Afridi’s patriotism cannot be questioned and Rameez Raza correctly sums it up, ‘Cricket, cricketers and fans transcend boundaries.

Kohli has praise for Amir and Afridi enjoys Indian fans, so what’s the fuss about?’

On their part, the Indian fans perhaps haven’t paused to think if Dhoni or Kohli had made a similar statement, how would they have reacted?

Hidden in the din is our reality, the more we try and sound different, the more we are the same.

Makes one wonder, that away from the limelight and the pressure, how many players of the two teams are friends? In the good old times we heard, quite a few. Sourav Ganguly had spoken about how his team was treated really well in Pakistan during a tour there. Why wouldn’t they be?

Why shouldn’t we look after the Pakistan players and their security when they are in India?

Politics and sport don’t go hand in hand although sometimes, it's not easy to segregate the two. Cricket, as politics’ most profile ambassador, will always bear the brunt and although the relations sound complex, they really are simpler than we, the common man on both sides of the border, imagine.

Examine: Imagine a world without India-Pakistan Test cricket

Much like Shoaib Malik and Sania Mirza, we happily co-exist in a third country, try and outdo each other’s hospitality, and in these third countries, we always wonder if the man next to us speaking Punjabi is from Amritsar or Lahore.

Maybe Afridi, who is almost at the end of his career, actually spoke the truth? And, why should it be surprising?

Former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, on his historical bus trip to Lahore, had said that you can change your friends but not your neighbours — and that is the truth about India-Pakistan.

It is easier for both sides to burn effigies but tougher to acknowledge that some of us can actually be friends.



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