ISLAMABAD — Former Pakistan pace bowler Shoaib Akhtar has fired a 160kmph salvo at the New Zealand cricket team, saying that his side’s “real anger is with the Black Caps”, and that the Babar Azam-led side had “no issues with India”.
Ahead of the ICC T20 World Cup ‘Super 12’ clash against arch-rivals India on Sunday (October 24), Akhtar trained his guns at the Kane Williamson-led side for cancelling their limited-overs tour of Pakistan hours before the start of first ODI in Rawalpindi last month due to “security issues”.
Several present and former cricketers had criticised New Zealand Cricket (NZC) for the last-minute pull-out, but Akhtar seems to be still seething at the humiliation meted out to Pakistan ahead of the T20 World Cup.
“Our real anger is with New Zealand. We will take it out on them, we have no issues with you (India),” said Akhtar, speaking to Salaam Cricket 2021 on Friday.
Following New Zealand’s decision to pull out, England too followed suit and cancelled their short limited-overs tour. Though New Zealand coach Gary Stead has said there will be no animosity when his side takes on Pakistan on October 26, the match will hold centrestage for obvious reasons.
“Obviously, what happened in Pakistan was sad for Pakistan cricket, their players, and also our players, who missed out on that opportunity as well. We can’t change what has happened there. All we can do is (to) prepare for the tournament and we face Pakistan first up,” Stead had said.
Akhtar said that India will be under tremendous pressure to start on a winning note, given their following in the UAE.
“There is a lot of pressure but it’s less on Pakistan because first of all, the entire stadium is blue (India colours). That is yours. Your (Indian) fans will be there, your broadcasters, we have no problems if we lose this. On a serious note, I feel there is a lot at stake for India. If Pakistan bat first and make more than 180 runs then trust me, the pressure gets to the biggest of players. If India can handle that pressure better than Pakistan, that’s fine, but what if Pakistan surprises you,” added the 46-year-old.