Off The Field: Indian Cricketers Are Cancelling Shahid Afridi… Yuvi and Bhajji Included


Off The Field: Indian Cricketers Are Cancelling Shahid Afridi… Yuvi and Bhajji Included

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

India and Pakistan have not played bi-lateral cricket against each other for close to a decade, but old on-field rivalries continue to boil over, given the antagonistic political equation between the two neighbours. On Pakistan’s side, Shahid Afridi is one of the most frequent offenders, regularly criticising India’s presence in Kashmir and the Indian government, and in turn ruffling the feathers of his former peers, especially his rival both on and off the field, Gautam Gambhir.

Afridi’s proclivity to make inflammatory statements has earned him an ill-reputation among Indians, to the point that associating with him can be seen as “anti-national”, as former Indian cricketers Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh found out in April when they made appeals for donations to Afridi’s charity that was working to fight Covid-19. These appeals were made in the spirit of humanity and unity in the face of a pandemic, but now, Harbhajan’s and Yuvraj’s gesture of goodwill seems to have backfired on them. Afridi once again displayed his anti-India sentiment when he recently visited the LoC.

In the video, Afridi can be spotted badmouthing the Indian Army and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He accused the PM of committing religious atrocities in India. “…The world is infected by a deadly disease, but what’s more dangerous is in Modi’s heart and mind,” he said.

Of course, his sensational remarks have not gone down well with Indians, cricketers included. While his usual detractors have spoken out against him, even Harbhajan and Yuvraj have decided to walk back their appeals for donations to his charity.

A day after the video went viral, Yuvraj responded on Twitter, stating he was “really disappointed” by Afridi’s comments, and went on to declare, “I made an appeal on your behest for the sake of humanity. But never again.”

Yuvraj’s statement was also retweeted by Harbhajan, who agreed wholeheartedly with his former teammate on never supporting Afridi ever again. While talking to the media, Harbhajan spoke at greater length on the topic. “One person asks me to make an appeal for the sake of humanity, and I did my bit. That was it. I have no relation or tie-up with any Shahid Afridi from here on,” he added.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Shahid Afridi story without a response from Gautam Gambhir, and true to form, the former cricketer-turned-politician had something to say, and of course it included his favourite age-related jibe to throw at the Pakistani cricketer.

It wasn’t only retired cricketers involved in this dust-up though. Even Shikhar Dhawan responded, finding it absurd that Afridi was obsessing over Kashmir while the whole world was struggling with the coronavirus.

Suresh Raina tweeted that Afridi makes statements like this to remain relevant, and that he would be better off focussing on the many problems in Pakistan.

Afridi is now officially persona non grata for the Indian cricket fraternity, if he wasn’t already.