In an exclusive column for the official website of ICC, Shahid Afridi wrote a nostalgic article sharing his fond memories with several Indian cricketers as the cricketing world gears up for a much-awaited India-Pakistan match scheduled on the 4th of June for the group stage of the Champions Trophy. He went down memory lane recalling a few interesting tales of friendship he shared with most of the Indian players he played against but also stated that Gautam Gambhir was a rare exception to this list. The two had a heated conversation during a game in 2007.
“Contrary to popular belief, India and Pakistan players get along very well. Of course, there are exceptions like Gautam Gambhir, who dare I say isn’t the friendliest. We are unlikely to be found together at a coffee shop anytime soon. We had a heated exchange on the field some years ago and it made headlines all over the world. While I have moved on in life as I feel these things are part and parcel of the game, Gautam for some reason can’t get over it. Good luck to him!” the veteran all-rounder wrote.
He admitted that things were very different in the good old days when the two countries used to tour each other on a regular basis, “I have enjoyed excellent relationships with Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh. The three are one of my best mates and we have some wonderful memories together from the times when both the sides used to play and tour each other on a regular basis. In the early days of our careers, we used to hang out together quite a lot and also spend time at each other’s homes.
With two countries sharing a lot of similarities in language, food, and culture it is not difficult to imagine people from both countries getting along with each other. It is unfortunate that the prevailing ties with the respective governments of the nations have ruptured the interaction between the two nations not only in terms of cricket but also most other cultural forms.
Afridi also reminisced about the good old days by recalling one his best knocks against India, “I consider myself extremely privileged and lucky to have played my international cricket in the era when Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Anil Kumble, MS Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh, etc were on one side and the likes of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, Shoaib Akhtar, Moin Khan, Saeed Anwar and, Saqlain Mushtaq were on the other side. I don’t think it can get any better than this.
India and Pakistan have featured in some of the most iconic, thrilling and nail-biting matches. I have been very fortunate to play a few good innings against India, but the ODI century in Kanpur in 2005 stands out. The innings helped us take a lead in the six-match series which we eventually won 4-2 after we had started poorly, losing the first two games.
In the lead up to the Kanpur game, Yuvi, Bhajji and Zaheer came over to my hotel room. They were all relaxed and kept teasing me by saying that they will win the series with ease. I was at my wit’s end as they were all bullying me and it eventually made me a little angry. I then prayed to the Almighty Allah for our success so that we could restore our pride.
I think 12 years down the line, I should thank them for inspiring and motivating me to play the Kanpur knock, one of my favourite international innings.”
He also wrote about a beautiful gesture that was shown by Virat Kohli during the T20 World Cup in 2016 which was assumed to be his last assignment for the national team. This is what he had to say about the incident, “I will always remember him for the gesture he showed when he gave me an India cricket team signed shirt following our match in Kolkata in the ICC World Twenty20 2016. This shirt sits prominently in my collection and will always remind me of not only my matches and visits to India, but my excellent relationships with most, if not all India cricketers.”
He concluded the article by hoping for a classic Indo-Pak match next month and felt the Pakistani pace attack will cause a lot of trouble for the Indian batsmen in English conditions.