Pakistan cricketers get more love in India than back home: Afridi

Kolkata, March 13 (IANS) Happy with the reception here, Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi on Sunday said his country’s cricketers get more love from the fans in India than from those back home.

“We get lot of love from fans here, even more than the love we get from fans in Pakistan,” Afridi told the media at the Eden Gardens, a day after their arrival to take part in the World Twenty20.

The 36-year-old dashing all-rounder recalled that he has been coming to India for two decades during his long career, and asserted that cricket has always brought the two countries together.

“Cricket is a sport which has brought the two countries together. Can there be anything better than politics and cricket to bring the two countries together?” he said.

However, Afridi disagreed with a media person that the fact that none of the Pakistan players opted out of the tournament after their authorities gave them a choice to travel or not to travel to India showed that they disagreed with their government’s apprehensions about their security in India.

“It is not a question of disagreement. Whatever decision the government takes, we back it. We are not politicians,” he said.

Pakistan were earlier scheduled to arrive here on Tuesday but that got delayed as the country’s government wasn’t happy with the security arrangements in India. Finally after an assurance from Home Minister Rajnath Singh, the team finally arrived here on Saturday evening.

Afridi turned a tad sentimental as he profusely praised the Eden Gardens, particularly its boisterous crowd, where Pakistan would be playing a warm-up game as also two Super Ten group B fixtures including the high-voltage clash against India on March 19.

Asked whether the roar of the expected full house of 65,000 at the Eden Gardens would put his team under pressure, the 36-year-old said: “International cricket is all about pressure. One who can handle pressure wins.”

“And talking about the fans, my cricket is about to end. The sort of love I have got here I will remember all through my life. People here really love cricket and the cricketers. They love good performances.”

“When you play here, this plays at the back of your mind. These things are also there in the back of your mind when you make a game plan. You take lot of these things into consideration, and your body language changes,” Afridi said.

Pakistan have a clean slate at the Eden Gardens in the limited over format, winning each of the six games they have played at the hallowed venue. And the statisitics has made Afridi upbeat about his side’s prospects in the first two games.

“Good that we are playing our first two games here. We have always enjoyed playing on this ground. This ground suits us,” said Afridi, who has played 398 One-Day Internationals (ODIs), 94 T20Is and 27 Tests.

Apart from the contest against India on March 19, Pakistan are scheduled to play a warm-up game (March 13) opposite Sri Lanka and then lock horns with a qualifier (March 16) at the Eden.

Then they travel to Mohali, to cross swords with New Zealand on March 22 and Australia on March 25 in their remaining Group B fixtures.

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