Pakistan are one of the contenders expected to go the distance in the ODI World Cup, which is scheduled to be hosted exclusively in India for the first time. They didn’t have a memorable campaign in the recently concluded Asia Cup but in sub-continental conditions, the ‘Men in Green’ will always be one of the sides to keep an eye on.
Captain Babar Azam and Co. landed in Hyderabad on Wednesday, September 27, to take part in the showpiece event. They were given a warm welcome at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport by Indian cricket enthusiasts and the likes of Babar and Shaheen Afridi appreciated the same on their social media handles.
However, just as cricket was starting to take baby steps to mend the tumultuous relationship between the two neighboring countries, the chairperson of the Management Committee of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Zaka Ashraf, made a controversial statement during an interview to create a huge uproar. In a viral video, Ashraf spoke about giving Pakistani cricketers lucrative contracts. However, during the interaction, he referred to Pakistan traveling to a ‘Dushman mulk’, which translates to ‘enemy country’.
“We gave these contracts to our players with love and affection. Never in the history of Pakistan, such an amount of money has been given to players. My aim was to keep the players’ morale high as they go to countries, the enemy country (‘Dushman Mulk’) for competitions,” the 71-year-old said in the video.
One side, Pakistan cricket team received enthusiastic welcome in India.
Other side, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Zaka Ashraf termed India as “Dushman Mulk” (enemy country).
So, no matter what we do, Pakistan’s mentality & agenda is clear. pic.twitter.com/oUbz8MYsl5
— Anshul Saxena (@AskAnshul) September 28, 2023
These appalling and insensitive remarks from Ashraf have been met with severe criticism, not just from Indian fans but also from Pakistani fans. The 1992 World Cup champions will play warm-up games against New Zealand and Australia on September 29 and October 3, respectively. Both these games will be played in Hyderabad.
Following the warm-up matches, Pakistan will begin their campaign in the marquee event with a clash against qualifiers Netherlands in Hyderabad on October 6. The much-awaited India-Pakistan tie will be held at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on October 14.
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It is unfortunate that Ashraf’s statement has overshadowed Pakistan’s arrival in India for the World Cup. However, the team will be looking to put this behind them and focus on their cricket. They have a talented squad and hope to make a deep run in the tournament.