The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had expressed their concerns over security being provided to the team and its staff in Dharmasthala and was prepared to even pull out of the T20 World Cup if the venue wasn’t shifted. The BCCI yielded to those requests and changed the venue to the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
The Pakistani team finally arrived in Kolkata and captain Shahid Afridi immediately played down those security concerns along with his team mates by stating that he felt more love from Indian fans than from fans in Pakistan. The veteran all-rounder who has confirmed that he will retire at the end of the T20 World Cup has had to take a lot of flak from the fans of late, especially after the team’s poor performance at the Asia Cup.
Due to strained relationships between the two countries, India and Pakistan hardly play each other and very rarely do the Pakistani team play in the sub-continent. Former captain Shoaib Malik who married Indian tennis player Sania Mirza also stated that he had never faced any security issues when he was in India and did not feel threatened at all.
India will take on Pakistan on the 19th of March at the Eden Gardens and a sell-out crowd is expected for what is expected to be a high pressured match for both sides. India recently beat Pakistan during their Asia Cup encounter and Pakistan will be looking to bounce back and give their fans at home something to cheer about. Even though Afridi says that his team gets more love from Indian fans, the fans at the Eden Gardens will be in full support for the men in blue.
The chief minister of Kolkata has already assured the PCB of providing the Pakistani team and its staff with the highest level of security and there will be thousands of police personnel in the stadium. Afridi and his team will be hoping to keep their focus on the cricket and leave the security and political issues to be sorted out by the legislators.
In a statement, Afridi said “Let me say that we are more loved here than in Pakistan. Crick et brings the two countries closer, so there’s nothing like playing cricket with India. I am in the last stage of my long career and let me tell you that I’ve not enjoyed playing anywhere as much as I have in India. This experience is something that I will always remember.”