Nothing controversial about Afridi’s statement: Waqar Younis


KOLKATA: Pakistan coach Waqar Younis has thrown his weight under-fire skipper Shahid Afridi after ‘Boom Boom’ said his side received more love in India than back home.

“There was a bit of a controversy yesterday,“ Younis said in reference to Afridi’s comment at a press conference at the Eden Gardens here on Tuesday.

“But I think it is a controversy over nothing, I could not find anything controversial. I told the boys, ‘Leave it, we have come to play cricket, we should focus on cricket.’”

At his first interaction with the media on Sunday morning after arriving in India the night before, Afridi had taken great pains to convince Indian journalists that as cricketers, his team loved playing in India, “because of the love we get in India.”

“Let me say we are more loved here than in Pakistan… I have not enjoyed playing anywhere as much as I have in India,” the skipper had said.

The comment stirred the proverbial hornet’s nest in Pakistan and goaded Javed Mianadad to flay him saying, “Shame on you.”

Afridi was conspicuous his absence from practice and the media briefing on Tuesday, but coach Younis said he was feeling a bit under the weather.

“He was not well in the morning, and we felt it was better for home rest in the hotel than come out and practice in the heat,” Younis said.

Afridi was since declared fit for Pakistan’s opening clash against Bangladesh while paceman Mohammad Sami was rule out after failing to recover from a foot injury.

Pakistan’s chances

Younis said he did not believe there were any “favourites” in T20.

“If you look back, no champion was considered favourites; India, us or Sri Lanka, but they won.”

In his book, the field was open and everyone had an equal chance to lift the trophy – even Pakistan.

He also downplayed the sway that Bangladesh have had over his pupils in the shorter formats of cricket in the past one year.

“They are playing really good cricket, have been a good side, and we respect them,” he replied when journalists asked him to rate his team’s chances against Bangladesh.

“But this is the big stage. We are confident we will play good cricket.”

Bangladesh had whitewashed Pakistan 3-0 in an ODI series as well as in the one-off T20 played last May at home. They also beat Afridi’s team in the Asia Cup earlier this year.

Pakistan have, however, won three games on the trot since then – against UAE and Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup and against the Lankans in a warm-up match at the Eden on Monday.

Younis said conditions were “different” in Bangladesh – the scene of all three Pakistan defeats at the hands of Mashrafe Bin Mortaza’s team.

“[But] Conditions don’t matter if you are playing well,” he said, perhaps referring to the last three wins.

The coach also did not seem too perturbed by Afridi’s jaded form; the skipper had scored a duck in the warm-up match and leaked 40 runs in his allotted four overs.

“He is just one match away from hitting form,” Younis said.

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