Former Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi has recalled fond memories of his friendship with several Indian cricketers, but noted Gautam Gambhir as an exception saying that the veteran opener had still not got over on-field altercation the two had a few years ago.
In an exclusive column on the official website of the International Cricket Council (ICC) in the lead up to the heavyweight clash between India and Pakistan in the Champions Trophy on June 4, Afridi said he has always enjoyed good relations with Indian players.
Unlike popular perception, players from both nations get along very well off the field, the all-rounder said.
“Contrary to popular belief, India and Pakistan players get along very well. Of course, there are exceptions like Gautam Gambhir, who dare I say isn’t the friendliest,” Afridi wrote, referring to an ugly spat the two had on the field years ago.
“We are unlikely to be found together at a coffee shop anytime soon. We had a heated exchange on the field some years ago and it made headlines all over the world. While I have moved on in life as I feel these things are part and parcel of the game, Gautam for some reason can’t get over it. Good luck to him!”
Gambhir had collided with Afridi on the pitch during Pakistan’s tour to India in 2007 while attempting a run, after which the duo exchanged abuses and the umpires had to intervene to de-escalate the situation.
Afridi said he has enjoyed excellent relationships with Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh.
“The three are one of my best mates and we have some wonderful memories together from the times when both the sides used to play and tour each other on a regular basis.”
“In the early days of our careers, we used to hang out together quite a lot and also spend time at each other’s homes. Now, all of us are married and, as such, responsibilities and the priority lists have changed. But whenever we catch-up, we meet with warmth and love, and remember our good times together,” the 37-year-old wrote.
Afridi also had some glowing words for India captain Virat Kohli and said he cherishes the gesture the skipper showed by gifting him an India shirt signed by the team last year.
“Another player I admire and respect from the present lot is Virat Kohli. He has a fantastic cricket bat in hand and an even a better heart in his supremely fit body.
“I will always remember him for the gesture he showed when he gave me an India cricket team signed shirt following our match in Kolkata in the ICC World Twenty20 2016. This shirt sits prominently in my collection and will always remind me of not only my matches and visits to India, but my excellent relationships with most, if not all India cricketers.”
Read more: Afridi thanks Kohli for ‘wonderful’ farewell gift
Afridi also recounted moments from India’s tour to Pakistan, when he invited the entire India team to his Karachi residence. That experience ended up as one of the funniest and most embarrassing memories he has.
“I recall during one of India’s tours to Pakistan, I invited the entire India team to my Karachi house. We prepared special Pathan-style rich food, full of lamb and mutton dishes. When the food was served, there was a complete silence in the room and my Indian friends were looking at each other. At that point, I realised that my honourable and respectable guests don’t eat that type of food!
“Quite a few of them were vegetarians, and so, we had to urgently replace the food with Daal (lentils) and vegetables dishes. It was quite embarrassing for me to not know about the dietary requirements of the guests since our similarity of culture made me take many things for granted. That was a funny memory of my ‘hospitality’ for the Indian team.”
Afridi said it was sad the two teams were not playing each other often anymore due to the prevailing relations between the two neighbours.
“Hopefully, the situation will improve soon so that the old friends can reunite to relive old memories,” he wrote.