Pakistani skipper Shahid Afridi did it again after his team lost a key tie versus Australia to bow out of the T20 World Cup on Friday (March 25). He spoke on the "support of the people of Kashmir" saying he thanked those who turned up from Pakistan and Kashmir to support his team. [Afridi thanks people of Kashmir, yet again]
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Lot of people are here from Kashmir, Afridi says and courts controversy
The "Kashmir remark" from the Pakistani captain came just a few days after he was criticised for the same during the toss in the match against New Zealand, which his team had also lost.
Afridi's remarks drew flak from the Indian cricket board and also the media.
BCCI Secretary Anurag Thakur said Afridi was not "politically correct" and as a player, he should have kept a distance from these issues. The media also felt he was unnecessarily interfering in a sensitive issue with many even asking whether the 36-year-old was intending to join politics. [Afridi to take decision on retirement in 4-5 days]
More than joining politics, Afridi was making grounds for returning home
Whether Afridi is indeed making grounds for joining politics is for the future to tell but he was certainly making these remarks after sensing that he was on a tricky wicket. The dashing batsman was severely criticised back home for his weak captaincy in the match against India at the Eden Gardens which Pakistan lost mainly because the skipper had misread the pitch.
Afridi could understand then clearly that his team was not equipped to beat quality sides like New Zealand and Australia and went on to make these remarks before the penultimate and after the final match in this World Cup.
The moment Pak started falling apart, Afridi's 'statesmanship' was gone
It was more of an effort to please the media and anti-India sentiments back home who were sharpening their knives after the twin tragedies of losing to India and also failing to overcome the preliminary hurdle in the tournament.
The same Afridi had tried to play the role of a statesman after arriving in Kolkata where Pakistan's match with India was shifted from Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh owing to security reasons. He was even slammed by former Pakistani cricketer like Javed Miandad for saying that he had received more love from India than at home.
It was a remark that earned Afridi bouquets in India but brickbats from Pakistan. The moment Pakistan faced adversity in the tournament, thanks to a mediocre lot, their captain raked up the 'nationalism' issue to control the damage somewhat off the ground.
We are also responsible for Afridi making such "politically incorrect" remarks
With the nationalist emotion running high on this side of the Wagah for some time now, it is of no surprise that representatives from the other side will also play the same card to help their respective cases. If we choose to target Pakistan's cricket team for reasons that do not relate to cricket (rather terrorism and Kashmir), then the Afridis will also do their bit to associate non-cricketing reasons with cricket.
This is a dangerous trend which has every potential to kill cricket as the only remaining option for the two neighbours to aim for a durable peace between themselves.