Shahid bhai, with us or against us?

Published: April 6, 2011
The writer’s first book, Looking For America, has been published by Harper Collins India. He is a former editor of the Hindustan Times’s Mumbai edition

The writer’s first book, Looking For America, has been published by Harper Collins India. He is a former editor of the Hindustan Times’s Mumbai edition

On April Fool’s day, well before Shahid Afridi had arranged subcontinental hearts in order of size and cleanliness, a video interview of his went viral on the Internet. It wasn’t a prank. Friends passed it on to me as a model of what sensible cricketers should say as they bear the burden of national disappointment.

The source was SibteinTV, a channel that generally uploads entertainment-related content. This video was more a press conference at Afridi’s doorstep than an interview. He answered a series of questions, on the performance of teammates; Rehman Malik’s mistimed warning on match-fixing (apparently Malik called Afridi “char dafa” to clarify, but the Pakistan captain couldn’t really understand what the minister was saying). Inevitably, there was also the matter of losing to India.

It was this part that seemed to provoke the most hostile response from the Pakistan captain: “I don’t understand why people here are against India. Why is there so much hatred against them? Aren’t there other teams?”

He advised a reality check: Indian ‘dramas’ were on TV in every household; marriages were taking place with ‘Indian taur tariqa’; there was a huge appetite for Indian movies. “So why this hatred only for India? Everything has a place. This is a sport, take it as a sport.”

Most Indians regard Afridi as a mercurial fellow who they would rather watch than hear. When he opens his mouth, we think it is for one of two reasons: Either to bite the seam off a ball, or to fire fast-medium expletives. His association with common sense is considered either limited or non-existent, so his comments were refreshing. As part of the same conversation, Afridi also said that he wanted to rest for a couple of days.

Unfortunately, he didn’t rest his mouth. Over the next few days, he put his foot in it on national television: “In my opinion, if I have to tell the truth, they (Indians) will never have hearts like Muslims and Pakistanis. I don’t think they have the large and clean hearts that Allah has given us.” In the same show, he also said that India and Pakistan could never be friends.

Then, he took the foot out (partially). He told an Indian channel that everyone was equal according to him. That what he “meant to say” was that Indians should extend the same kind of hospitality that they receive when in Pakistan. That these “chhoti, chhoti batein” shouldn’t be blown up and we should live happily ever after.

I am confused about where his foot is at the moment, but if the pattern is followed, it should be on its way to his mouth. The point of interest here isn’t Afridi’s limited skills as an ambassador or diplomat. It is his apprenticeship as a politician.

Two weeks ago, I had written a piece where I suggested that public figures like a Pakistan cricket captain, need to say and do things because they have to serve a constituency.

For me, Afridi had tested that constituency with his initial remark outside his home: “Aren’t there any other teams to hate?” No one clapped.

In the TV studio, the audience applauded heartily when he as good as confirmed that there weren’t. Well, perhaps there was one, but they don’t play cricket.

On the other side of the line of control, there was Gautam Gambhir. He has several things in common with Afridi: Both wanted to join the army; both can edit an authoritative thesaurus of profanity; and both serve constituencies.

Gambhir dedicated the World Cup win to the victims of 26/11. His constituency is a commercial one. The cricketer as patriot can sell anything from pain relievers to insurance in India — at least that is the way the advertiser sees it.

Although he is probably the man with the most endorsement deals in the Pakistan team, Afridi’s real contracts are different and far more complicated than Gambhir’s. They are unwritten, dynamic, entered into with ‘peoples’ rather than corporations. They always pose the question, “Are you with us, or against us?” This is easy to answer on a cricket field. Not in life, no matter how large or pure your heart is.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 7th, 2011.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (56)

  • Bambbaayyaa
    Apr 6, 2011 - 10:51PM

    RAW paid Taleban to reprimand Afridi …to make that U turn on the first statement… what say ..Recommend

  • John
    Apr 6, 2011 - 11:14PM

    Or the question should be:

    Is PAK with Afridi or not?

    The audience of Afridi answered they are with him. So the answer to my question and the columnist’s question is :

    Afridi is with you.

    Do the audience represent a true sample of PAK? Hope not.Recommend

  • Tight Dhoti
    Apr 7, 2011 - 1:01AM

    man you write well. Recommend

  • Cosmo
    Apr 7, 2011 - 1:06AM

    Why can’t Gambhir dedicate the win to 26/11 victims? It is a matter between India and Indians, whats Pakistan got to loose with that? Even Sachin had dedicated his double ton against England to 26/11 victims. To me it makes just one sense that the guilt of supporting terrorist organizations like JUD is making Pakistanis to rebut Gambir’s comment. Recommend

  • Mo
    Apr 7, 2011 - 1:38AM

    Please be careful on pointing a finger on lala.. he is our everything.. Lala defines us Recommend

  • Ajay
    Apr 7, 2011 - 2:52AM

    very hilariously written !Recommend

  • pl/sql
    Apr 7, 2011 - 3:15AM

    There’s no need for any thinking. It’s all RAW/CIA/MOSSAD conspiracy to malign Pakistan.Recommend

  • Arindom
    Apr 7, 2011 - 6:13AM

    The World cup was a conspiracy…

    The Semi Final was a conspiracy…

    It’s all a conspiracy…

    It’s all a RAW/CIA/Mossad/Hindu/Indian conspiracy….Recommend

  • Mirza
    Apr 7, 2011 - 7:35AM

    If you look at Afridi’s background from his lack of education, digging the wicket, chewing the ball, etc., we can understand why Afridii loves to hear himself talk. After miserably failing as a batsman which he originally was (remember ex-boom boom?) and being kicked out of IPL, he has no future in India. IPL is not going to choose a player who never scored more than 37 runs (against Zimbabwe long ago) in the fur World Cups he has played.

    So much has been made about his bowling in this World Cup but against test playing countries his wickets and average both goes down. Just like Malinga too four wickets and hat trick against weak team but failed in the final against a good batting lineup.

    With this kind of hate in him, I would not be surprised if Afridi joins Taliban after retirement. With his fickle personality and lack of high education, it is better for him to keep his mouth shut when it comes to media, diplomacy and politics.

    Mirza, USA Recommend

  • Anoop
    Apr 7, 2011 - 8:55AM

    Nobody questioned the Americans when they repeatedly dedicated their success in the last decade in the last deacde to 9/11 victims. Then, why are everyone questioning Gambhir?

    All he did was make a few families who suffered the Terrorist attack a little happy.

    Is that so bad?Recommend

  • harkol
    Apr 7, 2011 - 9:17AM

    Folks who take exception to what Gambir said are barking up wrong tree. There is no question Mumbai was tragedy and there were victims, and dedicating an achievement to those victims is a touching gesture.

    Now, If Pakistani’s have a raw nerve about Mumbai that’s because their countrymen were involved in carrying it out. Does that mean recognizing the plight of Mumbai Victims (and their families) is same as rubbing Pakistanis??

    That’s absurd to say the least.Recommend

  • faiz akhlaq
    Apr 7, 2011 - 9:25AM

    Afridi showed his real Tablighi face when he uttered those bigoted comments.He discriminated not only indians but millions of pakistanis also.Incase the religious barbarians don’t know jinnah’s pakistan’s flag has a white strip also,which indicated minorities.when afridi said they can’t have hearts as big as muslims he tore away that white strip,he excluded the millions of non-muslim pakistanis who cheered our team to win the world cup.

    Afridi should be ashamed of his bigoted comments.Just being born into one religion doesn’t make you better or worse then people of other religions,it’s your actions & deeds that determine who’s better,not your religion.Recommend

  • devesh
    Apr 7, 2011 - 9:29AM

    Thank God you clarified things about Gambhir. Many jurnos wrote that Gambhir talked about semifinal win which was misleading and lie. I don’t think dedicating world cup win to victims of 26/11 is a wrong thing to do. After so long, some thing positive happened in that city.Recommend

  • abdul basit
    Apr 7, 2011 - 9:31AM

    We are reaping what we have sown.The extemist Tableeghi jamaat sunk its claws into the pakistan cricket team in the 90’s & we are suffering the results of that today.We have a team of bigoted,intolerant,rightwing cricketers whose focus is all on performing & being seen to be performing dogmatic religious rituals & proselytizing the religion.

    PCB pays you to play cricket,if you want to do tableegh,resign from the team & do it on your own dime & time.

    News flash for Afridi:There are a few non-muslims still left in pakistan,so until your fellow intolerant jamaatis have forced them to migrate atleast pretend you represent all pakistanis & stop trying to be the leader of the Ummah.Recommend

  • Waqqas Iftikhar
    Apr 7, 2011 - 10:02AM

    avi….your articles are always head and shoulders above anything else on here….Recommend

  • ashok sai
    Apr 7, 2011 - 10:03AM

    He is in a confused state, as his country is !!!Recommend

  • Adeel
    Apr 7, 2011 - 10:11AM

    why do you indians even care about what the captain of the loosing side says…you indians have world under your feet so sit back, relax and live your life…just ignore us and shahid..Recommend

  • M. H. Hussain
    Apr 7, 2011 - 10:12AM

    “I am confused about where his foot is at the moment, but if the pattern is followed, it should be on its way to his mouth.”

    What do you mean by this childish remark Avirook. Go get a life… We love Afridi for whatever he has done for Pakistan on the field. Off the field, well, who cares!!!Recommend

  • Saad Durrani
    Apr 7, 2011 - 10:23AM

    ohreally! Gautam gets no blame because Gautam is Ghambir. India needs to critical of themselves somehow too.Recommend

  • bvindh
    Apr 7, 2011 - 10:52AM

    @Avirook Sen,

    Avirook Sen bhai, are you with us or against us?Recommend

  • Apr 7, 2011 - 11:11AM

    I don’t know why people give so much importance to cricket and cricketers. It ‘s just a sports like any other sports and not a part of foreign policy. Shahid is not minister of foreign affairs but a player. In a TV channel, Ravi Shastari had compared Pakistani team with auto riksha and Indian’s as BMW. We didn’t raise hue and cry so just forget what had Shahid Afridi uttered during his talks with media.Recommend

  • Atif
    Apr 7, 2011 - 11:19AM

    Get a life dude what he said is truth. Checkout anywhere from eden gardens to mumbai to mohali History is the crude evidence. Know truth can be hurtful but work on your people and try to get rid of the likes of RSS which are much worse and widelyspread than taliban but receive much less attention. Just imagine the reaction of Indians had Pakistan won it and you would know what he was talking about. Also the attitude in stadiums and elsewhere is a testimony.

    It is high time we get moral courage to call a spade a spade.Recommend

    Apr 7, 2011 - 12:13PM

    @pl/sql: Spineless trolls like you need to get a job! Recommend

  • Ahmad
    Apr 7, 2011 - 12:47PM

    i think the writter didnt has something to write so he has consumed that much of time just to the thing that what Shahid said about what. I would suggest the writter to spend time on some productive topics instead of such “choti choti” girlish things. Recommend

  • SD
    Apr 7, 2011 - 12:56PM

    Conspiracy theories at play again……….Recommend

  • A
    Apr 7, 2011 - 1:00PM

    Why are you not criticizing your media? Before the start of the match semi final your media has created so much unnecessary hype and concluded that Afridi’s men will target Sehwag, Tendulcar and Yuvraj with bouncers and may injured them. “Pakistani khilarion ka kaalay phathar k sath aik aur sharaarat” these kinds of words are used by your media and put pressure on the Pakistani team.
    Afridi’s reaction was a cause of your media actions.Recommend

  • Hedgefunder
    Apr 7, 2011 - 1:03PM

    What Shahid Bhai needs a lesson in Public Relations, How to manage Media Interviews !
    It would be to his own benefit, as it will increase his own brand value and become more marketable for the sponser, hence will make money too!!!!Recommend

  • Balwinder Sandhu
    Apr 7, 2011 - 2:23PM

    Afridi has a problem of manners- chek youtube- afridi called aamir sohail – ghatiyaRecommend

  • ABDV
    Apr 7, 2011 - 3:57PM

    ROFL, first Shoaib Malik (2007 t20 final) and now Afridi; Recommend

  • Ammar
    Apr 7, 2011 - 4:24PM

    I would appreciate if writer could just stick to the issues and let Afridi, Gautam, and other firebrands be.Recommend

  • Ammar
    Apr 7, 2011 - 4:28PM

    Gautam did nothing wrong in dedicating the World Cup Victory to 26/11 victims. He and every team member, has the right to do so.Recommend

  • Amina Agha
    Apr 7, 2011 - 5:46PM

    Insult your national heroes. Only in Pakistan. Recommend

  • Rajinder Ahluwalia
    Apr 7, 2011 - 5:50PM

    ‘Afridi Needs a change of Heart’
    The comments of Shahid Afridi leave no doubt about the depth of misconceptions fed into the mind of Pakistani nationals by its own system. If a person like Shahid Afridi has such feelings for India and Indians, I dread to imagine the kind of hatred common people must be having for India. If the Pakistanis have that kind of heart, then they certainly need a ‘change of heart’ to develop good relations with India. Recommend

  • Kiran
    Apr 7, 2011 - 6:18PM

    @Amina Agha:
    I wonder why our media is silent over this issue? Probably cause our media is not as irresponsible as theirs. We are not even highlighting the ill statements by Gambhir, Harbajan, Yuvraj and Ravi Shastri. Get a life people!! Go and celebrate your victory rather than spying Pakistani media all the time. He gave that statement on Our media and now I think he was quiet right in saying that. Do you remember the Feroz Khan’s hate mongering statements about Pakistan in Pakistan? What about Afridi bashing all over India? Doesn’t it support what Afridi said? Recommend

  • Ron(Indian)
    Apr 7, 2011 - 6:50PM

    India is fighting corruption why are you interested in Afirdi. Please support “ANNA HAZARE” and save India from corruption. Let the pakistanis talk about Afridi and stuff. We must grow stronger and faster. Kiran please contribute for india in your own way. ThanksRecommend

  • Ron(Indian)
    Apr 7, 2011 - 6:54PM

    I request Indians to fight corruption and save our country, thanksRecommend

  • Saad
    Apr 7, 2011 - 7:01PM

    Indians are wanted to looks like an Americans. They are thinking they can do and say anything to anyone like American. I am 100% Agree with Shahid Afridi (LALA) statement/remarks about INDIA and we all love LALA and what he said i can define it in one word ” SACH BAAT KARWI LAGTI HAI “Recommend

  • ArifQ
    Apr 7, 2011 - 7:33PM

    We idolize an individual who has no qualms in digging pitches or biting balls to gain a unfair advantage, then why complain when we have to hear his bigoted views. Lets accept the fact that Pakistan appointed a bigot to the role of captaincy and we should make sure the same mistake is not repeated, then again we may have to wait for another tour, post WIRecommend

  • Bangash
    Apr 7, 2011 - 7:36PM

    Afridi statements about Indians were correct and based on his experience with Indians.Recommend

  • joy
    Apr 7, 2011 - 9:12PM

    Hi Avi

    hope u know someone called Anna Hazare…..pity he does not write blogs

    but just google his name and do what u should be doing…Afridi just lost everyone;s respect

    and do I see u at Jantar Mantar or Azad Maidan..or most likely, writing another blog……the

    the choice is urs



  • Pakistani57
    Apr 7, 2011 - 9:17PM

    @Abdul Basit : Tablighi jamat is the most docile group present in Pakistan, they dont go out calling for khilafat nor would you see them indulging or propagating violence, I am yet to witness a tablighi dousing petrol on Indian or American flag and chanting ‘death to ‘ slogan all they do is tell people to pray stop doing Haram and mind their dealings with fellow human beings basically what quran says and if even this degree of Islamic work is EXTREMISM in your mind please enlighten us what Islam really is!Recommend

  • Apr 7, 2011 - 10:10PM

    Afridi was not a batsman originally. When you dont know the facts, kindly dont talk in public. He came in the team as a bowler !Recommend

  • Kamran A.
    Apr 7, 2011 - 10:29PM

    “I am confused about where his foot is at the moment”, LOL, i thought that was just hilarious, very funny, well done sir, you’re starting to grow on me.
    As far as Afridi’s comments, what else did anyone expect, the guy is not a diplomat, part of the problem is that there is a lot of media now. Everyone wants to get a comment and sooner or later someone like Afridi is bound to utter something that he should not have. Also a lot of people on both sides of the border carry such sentiments, as is abundantly clear in forums like this but no one is sticking a microphone in their mugs where ever they go. However PCB can do a better job of educating our undereducated cricketers about the impact their words and media profile can have in the age of info. As for Ghambir’s comments, i don’t see anything wrong with it, dedicate whatever to whoever he wants, but he does display the classic little man syndrome with his ever present “angry little man” routine, may be he has bollywood aspirations after his cricket career. Recommend

  • Saima
    Apr 7, 2011 - 11:33PM

    The writer is confused where Afridi wanted to put his foot, it didn’t land in his (Afridi’s) mouth but actually in writer’s mouth that is why he is talking nonsense like rest of the Indian media. What Afridi said is/was true, he has shown them the true face of their media. We are proud of you Afridi.Recommend

  • AZ
    Apr 8, 2011 - 2:48AM

    afridi bhai ne sach bola hai tou sab (indians) ko kerwa lag raha hai…so sad…look inside ur collars ..u indians and indian media.. !Recommend

  • Mirza
    Apr 8, 2011 - 10:41AM

    @Umair Hassan:
    According to your convoluted argument Majid Khan, Asif Iqbal, Mushtaq, etc., were not batsmen either! The first two came in as opening fast bowlers and Mush as a leg break.

    If Afridi was not a batsman then why has he opened the innings many times? Not only that he has scored 5 test centuries and taken only 48 wickets in his long career. Still he is not a batsman?

    One thing I am glad that you could not deny his pathetic performance and irresponsible behavior while batting. We both agree that he is not a batsmen, his best score in four world cups is 37 against Zimbabwe long ago. The facts and numbers do not lie, so much for Boom Boom as far as batting is concerned!

    I wonder what would blind supporters do if Afridi would have really performed in the last two big matches, instead of failing with both bat and ball?

    Mirza, USARecommend

  • Roamer
    Apr 8, 2011 - 1:35PM

    What afridi said in both the statements is true, in the first one he ridiculed those pakistanis who watch and adore indian culture and then have hatred for it as well, whereas in the second statement he was talking about indian media and indian players (not the entire nation). Please listen to it carefully … indian media I guess nobody will question me on this as for indian players if you have seen the semifinal you could see who played the game in right spirit and who was bad mouthing and showing vulgar send offs. Both his statements are targeted for different people but are perfectly accurate … I am with Afridi on this for sure.Recommend

  • Apr 8, 2011 - 2:57PM

    While you rightly point out that when our captain is not talking he uses his mouth to eat balls, you forget to mention that when he is not busy putting his foot in his mouth he craftily uses it for digging wickets. You have also omitted that Afridi professed that Allah has given Muslims a big heart which of course also includes the Muslims in India. Thus it is only the non-Muslims (primarily Hindus, as we love Indian Christians because they are not miscreants like the Christians in Pakistan who deserve to be maimed and purged regularly in order to guard against Blasphemy in the Land of Pure) in India who have small hearts. Hence you are exhibiting your small heart by mocking our great Islamic Warrior of a captain who is currently the second most widely acclaimed man in our country after Mumtaz Qadri. Both blessed with big hearts. Recommend

  • AA
    Apr 8, 2011 - 3:31PM

    i think cricket has now become a drama. ICC, some media groups, and sponsors are indulge in match fixing.
    we are wasting our precious time in watching and discussing cricket while the drama presenters are distracting our attention from real issues i.e. social needs.Recommend

  • shafi
    Apr 8, 2011 - 7:20PM

    sir.with due respect, u people always condemn terror act and linked it to pakistan.but wen it comes to kashmir,u suddenly changed.u expect from us, to forget kashmir dispute. establish ties with india best suit to interest of friend friendship is always bilateral.friends need to care each other,Recommend

  • Kanishka
    Apr 8, 2011 - 7:36PM

    I dont freaking understand why Indian think tanks are so ineterested in getting Pakistan into India??? Are you guys getting some money from the Arabs or Dawood?
    India is are begining to make money just now and we have more than 650 million people who live without flushable toilets…we have enough progress to make within our borders before trying to lift our neighbours out of their mess…
    INDIANS PLEASE CONCENTRATE ON YOUR OWN GAREEBI and then think of uplifting Pakistan they are better off than India…Recommend

  • Apr 9, 2011 - 3:01AM

    Hah…whatever your trying to say, keep it with you..and please stop discussing Pakistan’s captain…worry about yourself and your country…it would be fruitful for you and your people!Recommend

  • Apr 9, 2011 - 3:03AM

    sooooo riggggghtttt…Recommend

  • Maulana Diesel
    Apr 9, 2011 - 5:11AM

    i have filtered out all Indian TV channels. The best thing i have ever done. Absolute garbage most of them.
    To my indian friends – you won the cricket matches, good job. You played much better. Now leave us alone.Recommend

  • Iftikhar Firdous
    Apr 9, 2011 - 6:51PM

    when you called him boom boom, now its boomed. so dont cry, there is nothing for measurement of the hearts only God know. so afridi should be charge for blasphemy.Recommend

  • Arjun
    Apr 9, 2011 - 10:14PM

    Start a PPL similar to IPL; I want and wish all pakistani players part of this exciting tournament called IPL. Just look at the HD transmission colorful players quality bowlers and batsman. Simply amazing.. And also the stadiums and infrastructure development for cricket simply superb and world class.. Cant wait to see the IPL glamor. Its simply amazing.Recommend

More in Opinion