India is lucky to have a stable captain in Dhoni: Afridi

Lahore: India is lucky to have a "stable" captain like Mahendra Singh Dhoni, according to Pakistan`s ODI skipper Shahid Afridi who is still trying to play down his negative remarks against Indians that caused an uproar.

"I thought Dhoni led the Indians very shrewdly and performed brilliantly in the final. India is lucky to have a stable captain like him, Afridi told PTI in an interview.

"He had a big role to play in the Indian victory and I am sure this victory means a lot for Indian cricket and their people. But I also hope the World Cup coming back to Asia will also boost the sport in this region again and normalise bilateral Indo-Pak cricket relations," he said.

Afridi acknowledged that India were the better side on that day and deserved to win the World Cup.

"They were the better side and deserved to win the world cup. Any side that can beat us should win the World Cup," he said.

Afridi heaped praise on Indian batting icon Sachin Tendulkar, saying that his hunger for runs is amazing and he still has plenty to offer to Indian cricket.

"His hunger for runs is amazing and only he can best decide what he wants to do in the future. But I can tell you this age is no bar to his success in either Tests or one-day internationals," he said.

Afridi said he did not have any words to describe the Indian maestro and disclosed that he has a framed jersey autographed by Tendulkar in his drawing room.

The Pakistan captain once again played down his negative remarks about Indian people that he made on a Pakistani television channel talk show that has caused an uproar in the neighboring country.

"I have nothing against the Indian people and I have always enjoyed going to India as the people there appreciate and support good cricket and players," Afridi said.

"The remarks I made on the show have been misunderstood and taken out of context. My main emphasis was that sports should not be mixed with politics and there were some elements who didn`t want the people of the two countries to get closer," Afridi clarified.

"It is unfortunate whenever someone tries to bring politics into sport. This is unacceptable and will only lead to misunderstandings," he said.

Afridi`s remarks about the Indian media being negative about Indo-Pak relations and the Pakistani media being 100 times better have also caused a furore.

"I don`t want to sound condescending but I have always wanted good relations between the two countries and I have in my own way tried to play a positive role," he said.

"Even when we returned from India after playing the world cup semifinal in Mohali I said that Pakistanis should not treat cricket matches with India as war as in other things we tend to have common interests," Afridi noted.

Afridi pointed out that there were some elements in the Indian media who created misunderstandings or demeaned Pakistanis.

"Even when I said that Sachin Tendulkar would have to wait for his 100th century after the semifinal against us, my remarks were misinterpreted and played up negatively by some in the Indian media.

"I admire Sachin Tendulkar for being one of the best role models for young cricketers and no one in Pakistan even doubts his greatness as his record speak for himself.

"All I had meant was that being the captain of the opposing team, we would not allow Tendulkar to score runs or get a century against us which any opposing captain would say about an opposing batsman," Afridi explained.

The Pakistan captain said the national team had gone to India with the message of peace.

"I think our conduct in the semifinal and during our stay in India is proof enough of our intentions. Pakistan has always been keen to have normal cricket relations with India," he said.

"I still say Pakistan and India should have normal bilateral relations in cricket and there should be regular exchanges between the two countries," he added.

Afridi explained that his remarks on the talk show were in response to a question about how the Indians were looking at the semifinal match result and about some people introducing politics into cricket with Pakistan.

"There are positive people even in the Indian media but recently in India we as a team were sad over the way some sections of the Indian media did stories about us and how they portrayed us," Afridi said.

He said because of these negative elements, Pakistani players remained out of the Indian Premier League.

"When you play a cricket match with India, the intensity level is high but that is only on the field and it is unfortunate when a wrong colour is given to a match or relations between players."

Afridi said cricket can bring the two countries closer and it was a very positive gesture on part of the Indian Prime Minister to invite his Pakistani counterpart to Mohali for the match.

"I know for a fact that Pakistanis who were in Mohali for the match enjoyed themselves thoroughly and were looked after well even though the disappointment of losing the semifinal was great," he noted.