Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi addresses media representatives at a press conference at Eden Gardens Cricket Stadium in Kolkata on March 13, 2016, ahead of the World T20 cricket tournament © AFP Dibyangshu Sarkar
The 36-year-old said his team had always been “physically and mentally” prepared for the tournament despite weeks of uncertainty over whether they would be allowed to travel to arch rivals India, hosts of the World T20.
Pakistan only announced on Friday it was sending the national team after receiving assurances from India following negotiations with its neighbour over security arrangements.
“We are cricketers and not politicians,” Afridi told a press conference in Kolkata.
“We have always enjoyed playing in India and have been loved by Indians crowds more than crowds back home in Pakistan. Cricket has always brought people together and I think politics should be kept away from cricket.”
In his first comments since arriving with the team on Saturday night, Afridi said they were confident of success in their first outing against an unknown qualifier on Wednesday and the much-anticipated showdown against India on Saturday.
India switched the venue for the March 19 showdown from the northern hill station of Dharamsala to Kolkata after Pakistan’s concerns over threats from Hindu extremists and warnings of street protests.
Diplomatic tensions between the two countries have meant that the two teams have not played any bilateral series for more than three years, and their rivalry is restricted to multi-national tournaments such as the World T20.
Afridi said he expected a strong performance from Pakistani pacer Mohammad Amir, who is returning from a five-year spot-fixing ban.
“Amir is a top international bowler and he has given great performances recently,” he said.
Despite being confident of his team’s chances, Afridi said India were playing “very good cricket” at the moment and would be tough to beat in front of their home crowds.
He singled out “great performances” from Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh during Pakistan’s loss to their archrivals at the recent Asia Cup in Dhaka.