ON HIS arrival in Kolkata earlier this week for the World T20, Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi said his side was loved more in India than in Pakistan. It created an uproar back in Pakistan, with former cricketers terming Afridi’s comments as highly offensive. That’s not all. A senior Lahore-based lawyer even slapped a legal notice on Afridi for “committing treason” and “hurting the sentiments” of the people in Pakistan. (Full Coverage|| Fixtures||Photos)
The reason why the 36-year-old drew flak for his comments back home is not surprising considering the political tension associated between the two countries. Anything with an India-Pakistan rhetoric always invites polarising opinions.
However, ahead of the clash against India in the ICC Women’s World T20 at the Feroz Shah Kotla, when an Indian journalist poses a similar question to Pakistan women’s team’s captain Sana Mir, silence descends upon the press conference hall. Mir looks to her right, exchanges a quick glance with her media manager, and rolls her eyes for a moment to gather her thoughts. She is aware of the controversy Afridi’s comments has generated back home in Pakistan. She in no mood to add more fuel to the raging fire.
WATCH: What to expect from India vs Pakistan (men’s match)
“We really love playing here in India but we also love playing back home. In fact, we get more love at home and love playing in Pakistan more because we don’t get a lot of opportunities to play at home,” she says. A diplomatic and well-thought out reply evoking guffaws from the journalists present.
Mir says her team was in India to play positive cricket, and believes a win at the Feroz Shah Kotla will not only be be a great advertisement for her team back home, but even on a personal level a win here will be a milestone in her decade-long career.
“I want to win this game as a win here will be one of the high points in my career, and will It also be a good advertisement for our team back in Pakistan”, she added.
Mir, and her team however, have their task cut out against Mithali Raj & Co. Till date the two countries have featured in only 6 T20 games, with India winning five of them. The last time India played Pakistan in a T20 game was at the 2014 World Cup, in which India won by 6 runs. Mir says that past record has little relevance in this format.
Much like their Indian counterparts, the Pakistan’s women team too have been constantly under the radar of their more popular male counterparts. Earlier this month Pakistan cricket teams participation at the high-profile ICC event was in jeopardy after the Himachal Pradesh government refused to provide them security cover.
By the time the issue was resolved and Pakistan decided to send both their team to India, the women’s team in particular had lost crucial time. This meant they would miss out on the warm-up games. A narrow loss to the West Indies in the tournament opener notwithstanding, Mir believes her team has the ideal mix of experience and youth to counter the hosts.
There is always anticipation and hype surrounding any India-Pakistan encounter, more so because this time around both the men and the women play on the same day. Mir, however, chooses to play down all such hype and detests the comparisons made between Pakistan’s men and women’s teams.
“I will never like to compare women’s cricket with men’s cricket. This is something I have been telling all the journalists in Pakistan. We need to be patient with women’s cricket. It is growing and that is a wonderful sign, but at this point it is a little premature to compare the two,” she adds.
Ahead of the marquee clash, the visitors will miss the services of Javeria Khan, who was hit on her jaw by a bouncer during the game against West Indies in Chennai. Javeria had collapsed and had to be stretchered off. Fortunately, after being admitted, reports had suggested she had bruised her jaw after the ball ricocheted off her thumb.
On a dry Kotla wicket, the Pakistani spinners though will be looking forward to exploit spin on offer.
Left-arm spinner Anam Amin who walked away with the Player-of-the-Match award in the previous game with four wickets will be the key. Going forward, Mir is hoping her team’s never-say-die attitude will help them turn the tables against India.
“As a captain, I want my team to fight till the last ball, and I want them to give their 100 per cent every single game. This is something that has helped us improve as a team over the last two years,” the 30-year-old adds.