Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chief Zaka Ashraf's controversial comments, describing India as an “enemy nation”, led to his bashing on social media.
“We have showed our love towards our players with the new contracts. No one has allocated as much budget towards player contracts as I've done. Mera maksad ye hi hai ki hamaare players ka morale up rehna chahiye, jab ye dushman mulk me khelne jaaye, ya kahi bhi jaaye jaha competition ho raha hai. (I only want my players to be in high morale when they travel to enemy nation, or anywhere in the world, to take part in the competition),” Zaka Ashraf said.
After their flight landed in Telangana's capital, the Indian fans showered Babar Azam and his colleagues with a lot of love as whistles and chants filled the arena.
Subsequently, Pakistan skipper Babar Azam, wicketkeeper batter Mohammad Rizwan, and fast bowler Shaheen Afridi praised the Indians for the hospitality they have been receiving in India.
Notably, the Pakistani cricket team is touring India for the first time since 2016, when they were in the neighboring country to participate in the T20 World Cup.
Bilateral cricketing ties between the two South Asian neighbors remain suspended due to tensions between their political leadership over the issue of cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan.
Despite the frosty state of affairs between the two nations, the Indians welcomed the Pakistan cricket team with open arms. Even their captain, Babar Azam, earned rich plaudits for being the No.1 batter in ODI cricket.
But PCB chairman Zaka Ashraf presented his frivolous thinking by calling India an “enemy state”.
However, his comments were not only criticized by Indians but also by Pakistanis, with several supporters of the Babar Azam-led side condemning his remarks on X, previously Twitter.
“As Pakistanis, we condemn such a statement that has been made by Zaka Ashraf. We genuinely appreciate the Indian fans for warmly welcoming our team. Cricket is a gentleman's game. Love and peace across the border,” a fan wrote on the microblogging platform.
“One side, the Pakistan cricket team received an enthusiastic welcome in India. On the 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,” an Indian supporter stated.
“No ball Mr Chairman. Your players were given a warm reception by the Indians and you are barking up the wrong tree. It seems he himself is a ‘dushman' of his own Pakistani players,” cricket journalist Vikrant Gupta added.
“Shame on PCB chairman for calling India “Dushman mulk*despite a warm welcome from them, Zaka Ashraf is the real Dushman of our team. Dear Indians don't take him seriously, he is just a political tout that's why he was made chairman,” another commented.
“Shameful Statement from Zaka Ashraf We troll Indian Cricketers, journalists and fans just for fun but it doesn't mean we hate them & at least India isn't my Dushman Mulk. Peace and love for everyone,” a fifth opined.
“Being a Pakistani & a cricket lover I strongly condemn the reckless statement of Zaka Ashraf, he is a stooge of politicians, He sounds ignorant when he says “Dushman Mulk” & those who are defending him are duffers. PCB should apologize even if it's a slip of tongue,” a sixth remarked.
“When everything was going smoothly with PCT in India suddenly Zaka Ashraf thought to ruin it with the unnecessary point of ‘Dushman Mulk'. Man be professional, they are on National Duty keep this dirty politics aside,” a seventh argued.
Babar Azam and his boys will begin their World Cup journey against the Netherlands at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad on October 6.
The India-Pakistan game dubbed the mother of all matches, will be played at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on October 14.
Speaking about the India-Pakistan encounter, the legendary Waqar Younis emphasized that it would be a pressure game because of the large crowd that would come to watch the match.
“As we all know, it (India vs Pakistan) will be the biggest game, mother of all the games. So, when you play in Ahmedabad, you will have to control your nerves, and not only Pakistan will be under pressure since it is a weaker team as compared to India. But India will also be under pressure because the crowd in the stadium will create pressure on both the teams,” Waqar Younis told Star Sports.
“However, if we judge purely based on the team's performance, India definitely will be a better team,” he added. Younis was also mindful of the Pakistani's unstable form, and said the injury-enforced absence of pacer Naseem Shah could put them in a significant disadvantage. If I talk about Pakistan, they are a miss and hit this time. The absence of Naseem Shah will be a big disadvantage because Naseem and Shaheen (Afridi) used to complement each other with new ball,” Waqar Younis concluded.