Former Pakistan bowling coach and pace great Waqar Younis issued an apology on Wednesday after his remarks on wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan praying in the field during the high-voltage T20 World Cup match versus India on Sunday drew strong criticism on social media.
During an appearance on ARY News' show 'Off The Record' a day after the fixture, Younis praised the Pakistan side for winning the match and commented: "God has willed [Mashallah], Rizwan offered namaz in a ground in the midst of Hindus. That was something very, very special for me."
The remarks evoked fierce criticism from many on social media.
Indian cricket commentator and analyst Harsha Bhogle expressed dismay on Younis' comments, saying: "For a person of Waqar Younis' stature to say that watching Rizwan offering namaz in front of Hindus was very special to him, is one of the most disappointing things I have heard."
"A lot of us try hard to play such things down and talk up sport and to hear this is terrible," Bhogle tweeted.
"You would think that cricketers, as ambassadors of our game, would be a little more responsible ... We need to unite the cricket world, not divide it by religion," he added in a subsequent tweet.
Pakistani journalist and television anchor Raza Rumi also condemned Younis' comments, terming them "shameful".
"There is a large Muslim community in India. We have millions of Hindus living in Pakistan. Sport is sport, not a battle of religions," he tweeted.
Facing denunciaiton, Younis said in an apology on his Twitter account that he made the comments "in the heat of the moment" and didn't mean to hurt anyone's sentiments.
"In the heat of the moment, I said something which I did not mean which has hurt the sentiments of many. I apologise for this, this was not intended at all, genuine mistake," he said. "Sports unites people regardless of race, colour or religion. apologies."
The former paceman also shared a video from a show on A Sports, where he clarified that he had always abstained from commenting on matters pertaining to religion.
"But I was all excited that Pakistan has won the match ... and in that excitement I might have used some word that could have hurt someone's sentiments. So I apologise if anyone is hurt because of me," he said. "I never meant it, it was a game, it was [in] the heat of the moment, and I apologise."
When the show's host, Fakhre Alam, added that Pakistan winning the match might also have factored in the strong criticism being directed towards Younis from India, the former fast bowler agreed that it could have been one of the reasons that the matter was hyped.
Still, he added, "it was wrong of me and I should not have made those comments."