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Friday, February 18, 2011

Bangladesh is like being at home: Afridi

DHAKA: Whoever says the age-defying Shahid Afridi is a headstrong character ought to meet the Pakistan captain again. The ruggedly handsome Pathan not only displayed amazing diplomacy during the 2011 World Cup's first official press conference at the team hotel on Thursday, but also touched hearts with his candid replies.

Asked whether Pakistan would miss playing at home, Afridi just uttered, "Yes, we will." The deafening silence that followed was broken by Afridi himself. Having successfully conveyed Pakistan's pain of being deprived of 'co-hosts' status because of the security concerns back home, Afridi, retorted: "But being here in Bangladesh is like being at home." Pakistan have been camping here for the past week, and play their final warm-up game against England on Friday before moving to Sri Lanka to launch their campaign.

It was Ricky Ponting, Australian skipper, who made an introductory statement on behalf of all the 14 captains, but the true significance of the 2011 World Cup was put into perspective by the three captains of the 'host' nations - Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Kumar Sangakkara and Shakib Al Hasan.

Dhoni, who landed with his team here only an hour before the official function, agreed that it would be the most open World Cup ever. "All teams are in good touch, the schedule is nicely spread out with enough days between two games for players to recover from niggles. This will enable all teams to field their best. However, a team which performs consistently," observed Dhoni.

Asked whether his team was worried about extreme reaction from fans, who tend to hero-worship cricketers when they do well and run them down when they fail, Dhoni said, "It is part and parcel of Indian cricket. We are used to getting praised as well as criticized." Bangladesh captain Shakib refused to dwell much over his team's chances in the opening match against India. "That is not the only match, we are focused on doing well in the World Cup," Shakib said, deflecting media pressure.

Sangakkara played down the fact that Sri Lanka would be playing all their group matches at home. "Even in 1996, we had enjoyed playing at home. It will be no exception this time. I think the primary objective of all teams would be to get into the quarterfinals. After that it is a matter of winning two games, and you are in the final.

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