NEW DELHI - Prevailing cross- border tension may have restricted India-Pakistan bilateral cricketing ties but Shahid Afridi loves to put across a point firmly -- his “cordial relation” with India captain Virat Kohli cannot and will not be defined by political situation.
“My relationship with Virat is not dictated by political situation. Virat is a fantastic human being and an ambassador of cricket for his country, just like I am for my country,” Afridi said.
“He (Kohli) has always shown a lot of respect and has even gone out of his way to present a signed jersey for my foundation (Shahid Afridi Foundation),” he added.
Afridi’s foundation has been working in providing clean and safe drinking water for the economically weaker sections of society.
“There is a lot of warmth and fellow-feeling whenever I have spoken to Virat. It’s not that we get a chance to speak a lot but from time to time, he would drop in a message and I would do the same. I congratulated him recently when I came to know the he was getting married.
“I believe as cricketers we can set examples of how relationship between individuals can be a template for relationship between countries. I think after Pakistan, the two countries where I have received most love and respect are India and Australia,” said the former Pakistan skipper.
*‘Kohli’s character different from Dhoni’*
For someone, who was a maverick during his international career, Afridi loves Kohli’s aggression and believes that supporting juniors in crisis situations has also helped him in earning respect from youngsters.
“Virat is doing a brilliant job. I have no problem with aggression if it is a controlled one. And Virat’s character is different from MS Dhoni, who was a composed individual.
“Now suddenly, you cannot change the inherent nature of a person. Virat’s greatest asset is that he can take the team along,” Afridi observed.
Asked to compare Kohli with Pakistan captain Sarfraz Khan, Afridi said: “Sarfraz is still new to the job and he will only get better along the way. The only thing I don’t like is that media running down players during their rough times.
“As long as you are winning, everything is fine and you lose a game and all hell breaks loose. That is grossly unfair. We should not overlook someone’s past achievements just because he is going through a bad patch,” said the cricketer who has been loved and criticised in equal measure.
During the couple of days of Ice Cricket at St Moritz tournament, Afridi at times even beat Virender Sehwag in terms of popularity thanks to the presence of a larger number of expatriate Pakistani fans, who had thronged St Moritz.
The moment he entered the playing area wearing the orange jumper, St Moritz turned into a ‘Lala Land’ as everyone wanted a piece of their beloved ‘Lala’, as Pakistani fans affectionately call Afridi.
Afridi was a different man at different times.
He autographed the posters, even a Pakistan Tehreek-e- Insaf flag, obliged all the selfie seekers, seemed a tad irritated with multiple one-on-one interview requests, took his wife and youngest daughter out for a walk down the lake and did not even give a second glance at a young Pakistani woman, who in front of everyone shouted “Lala aapse kabhi alag se mil sakti hoon (Can I meet you somewhere else?).”
And yes, he played cricket too and tried to hit out as he would do often during his green jersey days. And the result was more often than not his downfall. It happened the same way but no one cared.