Former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi has called for cricket to be used as a tool to improve relations between India and Pakistan and for politics to be kept away from sports.
Cricket has been a victim of the tense relations between the two neighbouring countries, who have not played a full bilateral series since 2007.
“Due to lack of international cricket between the two countries, we now play either in the ICC tournaments or the events such as Ice Cricket,” Afridi told Wisden India, as he shared his recent experience of playing alongside Indian cricketers in an exhibition tournament in Switzerland.
“I believe politics should be kept away from sports. It should rather be used as a tool to improve relations between the countries. Sport is something which can play a big role in bringing peace,” he stressed.
Afridi captained the Royals in a two-match T20 series which was played in sub-zero temperatures in the Swiss Alps. Among the stars who featured in the tournament were Shoaib Akhtar, Abdul Razzaq, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan, and Ajit Agarkar.
“It was nice to meet and play with players from India after a long time,” Afridi reminisced. “That was something very positive about the tournament and I think it should continue. Both countries should also be playing international cricket against each other.”
Apart from a short limited-overs series in India in 2012-13, Pakistan and India have not met outside of World Cups, World T20s or Asia Cups.
Afridi, who continues to be in blistering form in T20 cricket, said he is focused on the upcoming edition of the Pakistan Super League, which starts in Dubai from February 22.
“I have started to practice for the PSL. I have reduced my other activities and am focusing more on the PSL. Hopefully, the upcoming season will be good for me,” said the all-rounder, who will be in action for Karachi Kings for the first time.
The PSL action will return to Pakistan towards the end of the tournament, with Lahore set to host two playoffs and Karachi ready to hold the final.
“The situation in Pakistan is much better now,” said Afridi. “It’s good to know that cricket is returning to Pakistan. This year, there will be two playoffs in Lahore and then the final in Karachi. It’s going to be a huge moment for the people of Karachi. It’s a positive sign and message to the world.”