Pakistan cricket team captain Shahid Afridi has reacted sharply to Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s ‘warning’ to his team against match-fixing ahead of the high-stake Pakistan-India semi-final.
“I don’t think he should have said such a thing at such a time,” Afridi said, while talking to Geo News channel. “Everyone knows how big a match this is and the pressures that come with it. But we will just do our best whatever the result. After the match we just want to be content in our hearts we gave our best.”
“The only answer we can give is with our performance. We will try to give 110 per cent in this big match,” he said.
Malik, speaking to reporters in Karachi on Monday, had said that the team is being monitored closely to avert a repeat of the embarrassing spot-fixing scandal in August last year. “The team is being kept under close scrutiny before the match because of the recent spot-fixing scandal. We are not taking any more risks and do not want more such scandals,” he said. He later repeated his comments in Islamabad.
“We are satisfied that the present team members are clean and aware of the damage already caused to Pakistan cricket by the scandal,” Malik said but added that intelligence was being gathered on the players regarding who they were meeting or conversing with over the telephone.
By way of damage control, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani telephoned Afridi later on Monday and wished the team the best of luck.
“The prime minister conveyed the sentiments and prayers of the whole nation for the team’s success. He said that irrespective of the result of the match the team should demonstrate the best of sportsmanship and dedication to the contest,” a statement issued by the Prime Minister House said.
Afridi assured the prime minister that each team member would put in his best performance for a favourable result.
In bad taste
Malik’s statement was also not received well by former cricket players and administrators.
Cricket greats Imran Khan and Zaheer Abbas said the statement would affect the team’s morale. “I just hope he didn’t mean what he said as it is not good for the team,” Khan told an Indian news channel. “I would rather watch Rehman Malik than the cricket team. I am serious. He was absconding. My worry is not the cricket team but it’s him.”
Former chief executive of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Arif Ali Abbas, while talking to The Express Tribune, said the statement was extremely discouraging. “It is a really sensitive issue to talk about. I don’t know what exactly Malik’s intention is but this is surely a discouraging statement as this is not the right time to bring up such things,” he said.
Former PCB chairman General Tauqir Zia said that Malik’s statement could have been prompted by a government-level report that players may be approached for match-fixing. “But again, I don’t think the warning should be given in public as this is surely discouraging,” he said.
Meanwhile, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Fazl’s (JUI-F) Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haidri, while speaking on a point of order in the Senate, also grilled the interior minister. “At such an important occasion when the national team is to face India and the prime minister is also visiting the country, this statement from the interior minister is inappropriate,” he said.
Negativity all around
Meanwhile, Afridi accused the Indian media of conducting a negative campaign against his team before the eagerly-anticipated semi-final match.
“There is so much negativity in the Indian media. There is nothing positive to watch on the channels and we are just sticking together as a team and it is just the hotel and ground for us,” Afridi said.
(WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY IRFAN GHAURI IN ISLAMABAD AND INPUT FROM REUTERS)
Published in The Express Tribune, March 29th, 2011.