Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi clarified his comments on being showered "more love in India than back home" on Monday after the team's landing in Kolkata recently, which caused a massive uproar back home.
The 36-year-old all-rounder said that he was only "trying to send a positive message in a diplomatic way" with his statement. The Pakistan contingent landed at the Kolkata airport in Saturday to a warm reception from hundreds of waiting fans, with Afridi stating that he was loved in India more than in Pakistan.
"I am not just the captain of Pakistan’s cricket team I am representing the whole country here. The one statement I gave recently should be taken as positive."
"I did not mean to say that someone is dear to me more than Pakistan’s people. My identity and everything I have belong to Pakistan," Afridi was quoted as saying according to a report on cricket.com.au.
Afridi also added in the report that former Pakistani greats such as Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Inzamam-ul-Haq would also say the same thing about India.
"Even if you ask the former greats such was Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Imran Khan they all will say the same thing. People in India worship cricket and it is like a religion here," Afridi added in the report.
Afridi's comments faced immense backlash in his home country of Pakistan, which shares tense diplomatic relations with India. Pakistan batting legend Javed Miandad blasted Afridi for his comments, and questioned his place in the Pakistan squad.
"These cricketers should be ashamed of themselves for saying such a thing. Shame on you," Miandad was quoted as saying, according to IANS.
"What have the Indians given us? Speak the truth even while in India. For the last five years what have they given us or done with Pakistan cricket.
"Having served Pakistan cricket for so many years I am shocked and hurt to hear such comments from our players," added Miandad.
A petition was also filed against Afridi at the Lahore High Court on Monday by advocate Azhar Siddique, who argued that Afridi's statements had hurt Pakistani sentiments.