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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It has always been our desire to play in India: Afridi

A relaxed Shahid Afridi was upbeat and in high spirits during his interaction with the media, ready with a quip and the right word during a lively session in which he was at his witty, charming best.

Pakistan chose to take Tuesday off ahead of the semifinal tie against India. “Why, don’t you like it?” he asked a journalist. “We have worked hard, we wanted to take the day off today so that we can save our lives for tomorrow. It might be a new thing, but new things should keep happening, right?”

The Pakistani captain said his team was excited about playing in India. “India began as one of the favourites and they have played very well,” he observed. “But my team combination is very good, all the boys are enjoying themselves and there is no pressure on them. We have played above our expectations.

“Whatever be the result, it is a great occasion that we are playing in India. It has always been our desire to play in India. We are enjoying ourselves because the people here want to see us play and the people in Pakistan want to see India play there. We have tried to make this relationship stronger and I am hopeful relations will be even better in future. Whatever the result, the cricket should be good and people should enjoy the game. It’s a big thing for us to play in India. We know how important this game is for both teams and we are well prepared for this.”

The World Cup was huge for the people of Pakistan, Afridi stressed. “It’s very important. This World Cup matters a lot to us and we are trying to bring cricket back to Pakistan. People talk about pressure here, but if you enjoy what you are doing, you will perform better. The coaches are doing a great job with the youngsters and all my senior boys are talking to the youngsters about how to handle the pressure. I am not really concerned, I know they will enjoy the crowd.”

As captain, this was his biggest game to date, Afridi agreed. “Obviously, to play in India against India is a huge challenge for me,” he said. “I take up the challenge whole-heartedly and our full effort will be geared towards playing well. Whatever be the result, I want to see effort and fight from every member of the team.”

Several members of the Pakistani team have stressed on team spirit and unity in the lead-up to the semifinal. “I get emotional during team meetings in a bid to lift the boys, and from what I have seen, they do lift themselves!” he laughed. “We are an emotional nation, in fact both our nations are. I try to say stuff to motivate the boys and help them play good, positive cricket. I don’t think this unity is because of me, I don’t want to take any credit for it. When the team does well, all 15 players do well and that’s when it becomes a unit.”
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